Word of the Week: Zimtzicke

Feb 3, 2012

Every Friday, Germany.info and The Week in Germany highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


Protest for equal rights on International Women's Day in Mainz, Germany (2003). Enlarge image This woman is no "Zicke" - she is protesting in a "Zickenmaske" ('Goat Mask') for equal rights for women in Mainz, Germany, on International Women's Day on March 8, 2003. (© dpa - Bildarchiv) Although it may at first sound like it could be a tasty treat, a "Zimtzicke" is wholly unrelated to the many cinnamon-based baked goods Germans enjoy during the winter months.

In fact, it could not have a more different connotation.

Although "Zimt" is the German word for "cinnamon," when combined with the derogatory expression "Zicke" (basically "an annoying bitch" - and not the canine kind), it takes on a whole new meaning.

"Zimt" instead in this instance means "dumb," or silly, so essentially "Zimtzicke" (plural: "Zimtzicken") means "stupid cow" or "silly old bat" or - in its most nasty incarnation - "stupid bitch" or "snotty bitch."

Clearly this is not a very nice expression, so it is best used sparingly - or not at all, lest you want to really insult a German-speaking person of the female persuasion whom you find truly intolerable.

"Zimtsterne" (Cinnamon Stars) are a popular holiday treat in Germany. Enlarge image "Zimtsterne" (Cinnamon Stars) are a popular holiday treat in Germany. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

A related - but less often deployed - expression is "Zimtziege," which means "cinnamon goat," at least in its literal translation ...

The word "Zicke" may have been derived from "Ziege" (goat) as it relates to the unpredictable movements, or leaps and bounds, that a goat might make, akin to the unpredictable statements or outbursts someone in an irritable or bitchy frame of mind might make. Or it could, according to various sources, relate to the alleged "silly" nature of goats in general, that people have long considered to be both stubborn and perhaps a tad stupid. Either way the connotation can be used in a humorous fashion, but is ultimately highly critical.

The adjective "zickig" is moreover used to describe someone - usually a woman - who is acting moody or becoming very short-tempered for some reason or another. In its verb form, one could say someone or something - like a faulty technical device - "zickt herum."

Nanny goats in Arche Warder, Germany Enlarge image Nanny goats in Arche Warder, Germany (© picture-alliance/chromorange)

The expression "Zicke" has gained some street cred in Germany since the 1990s. As a tongue-in-cheek urban fashion statement, for instance, some young women will wear T-shirts emblazoned with a single word - "Zicke" (like some T-shirts in the US or the UK might simply say "Slut," or similar, as an offensive play on the word's actual meaning).

Another related slang expression is "Zickenalarm," as in when many "Zicken" are seriously irked about something at the same time. And some men have slapped bumper stickers onto their cars with prhases such as "Zickentaxi" or "Zickenschauffeur."

All of these expressions are, however, best used sparingly, unless you want to incur the wrath of, well, someone who is acting like a total "Zicke."

© Germany.info

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