Word of the Week: Faulpelz

Jul 13, 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.


A young giant panda chills out on a tree stump. Enlarge image A young giant panda chills out on a tree stump in the Wolong China Conservation and Research Center, Sichuan Province, China in 2007. (© picture-alliance/WILDLIFE)

As the mercury rises during the summer months, folks find themselves enjoying some downtime in air conditioned interiors or lounging along pools or breezy shorelines. Too much of such "lazing about" however could lead people to brand you a "Faulpelz."

This expression is comprised of two words - "Faul" (lazy, or rotten) and "Pelz" (pelt, or animal fur). There are many variations of chilling out, or being lazy, in German. In this vein, laziness is "Faulheit", to be lazy is "faulenzen", and if someone is really being a lazy layabout they might even be lambasted as a "fauler Sack" (lazy sack) or as a "Faulpelz" (lazybone or couch potato).

So "Faulpelz" is a colloquial term used to describe super lazy people. The expression apparently stems from the older term "Bärenhäuter," which roughly translates into "bear skinners" (Bär means bear, and Haut means skin, so Häute means skins, ... ). This was not used, however, to describe industrious outdoorsmen like Davy Crockett. Instead it was used in the pejorative senses to describe soldiers who preferred to lie on their bear skins rather than go into battle.

If anyone describes you as a "Faulpelz" in Germany it is clearly not a compliment, though it is often used in jest to tease people you are close too. Given its origins it may come as no surprise that it is a masculine noun, although laziness is clearly not limited to any single gender.

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