Word of the Week: Liebestöter

Feb 10, 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.


Long Underwear = "Liebestöter" (Love Killers) Enlarge image Daniela, who appeared on the German reality TV show "Big Brother - Das Dorf" (Big Brother - The Village) at 28 in 2005, got ready for her role working on a farm by putting on some traditional garments - including a Bavarian-style dirndl with long underwear, the kind that could be referred to as a "Liebestöter" (Love Killer). (© dpa - Report)

"Liebestöter" (love killers) are not actual murderers - instead of making pulses race or people take emotional action, they tend to put a major damper on romantic passions.

So if you hear someone call something a real "Liebestöter," you need not worry that any kind of actual killing is involved, given that "töten" is the German verb "to kill" and a "Töter" is, quite literally, a "killer."

The more pleasing noun "Liebe," of course, means "love," as in the one German phrase even many non-German-speakers may have heard of before: "Ich liebe dich!" (I love you!)

While many things - bad breath, blatant public flirting with other people, visiting in-laws - can serve as "Liebestöter," they only really refer to a single thing in the German language: long underwear. Yep, looooooooooooooong u-n-d-e-r-w-e-a-r ... can you guess why?

The website Wortbedeutung.info refers to "Liebestöter" as an "unerotische Unterhose" (unerotic underwear) of the masculine persuasion (because the word is masculine, but also initially may have referred more to men's underwear), such as old-fashioned men's underwear made of finely ribbed white cotton, the kind that more than a few Americans have been known to glibly mock as "tightie whities."

Men's Underwear - Bavarian Textile and Industry Museum (TIM), Augsburg, Germany Enlarge image Men's underwear was on display at the Bavarian Textile and Industry Museum (TIM) in Augsburg, Germany, during a 2011 exhibition called "Kleider, Körper und Dessous" (Clothes, Bodies and Lingerie) that displayed erotic garments from the past 150 years. (© picture-alliance/dpa) But women can also scare off potential male suitors with old-fashioned, long underwear, as well as various other garments, such as huge flannel pajamas or nightgowns, which some German boyfriends will mockingly refer to as "Liebestöter" before they try to extricate their girlfriends from such cumbersome garments.

A "Liebestöter" can, moreover, also be used to describe all manner of things or behavior patterns that could disrupt a romantic love affair.

A synonym for "Liebestöter," according to Wordbedeuting.info, is "Beziehungskiller" (relationship killer), for which an obvious antonym is "Reizwäsche" (lingerie).

So don't wear any "Liebestöter" on Valentine's Day if you plan on romantically captivating the object of your desire.

© Germany.info

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