Word of the Week: Kuddelmuddel

Jul 20, 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.


"Kuddelmuddel" - a mish-mash of buttons Enlarge image "Kuddelmuddel" - a mish-mash of buttons (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Given that cleanliness really is next to godliness in Germany, where a deeply ingrained sense of "Ordnung" is almost regarded as a national trait, creating any kind of "Kuddelmuddel" - as cute as it may sound - is only a good idea if you seek to either bemuse, befuddle or seriously irk someone.

This figure of speech essentially translates into muddle, mess, confusion or hodgepodge. So a Kuddelmuddel could be a messy situation, like a bunch of multi-hued different yarns entangled on the floor of an untidy sewing room. Or it could simply mean a mixed bag of stuff, as in vintage accessories or trinkets strewn haphazardly across a flea market folding table for Sunday shoppers to sift through at a necessarily leisurely pace.

Synonyms for this expression in German are "Chaos" (chaos - go figure!); "Durcheinander" (confusion/chaos/jumble); "Gewirr" (confusion/entanglement/tangle); "Mischmasch" (mishmash/hodgepodge/medley); "Salat" (literally: salad, also: tangle, as in "Kabelsalat", or "cable salad"); "Tohuwabohu" (a previous Word of the Week!); "Unordung" (disorder/clutter/messiness/irregularity/disorganization); "Wirrnis" (chaos) or "Wirrwarr" (clutter).

Baum in Kenia

Word of the Week: Tohuwabohu

Common descriptions and stereotypes depict Germans as disciplined, tidy, dutiful and organized people who in one way or another seem to have a deep inner desire for order. If this description is right, how come there is this exotic sounding word "Tohuwabohu" in German?

Wilbär pals around with his mom, Corinna, in the Stuttgart Zoo. © picture-alliance/dpa

Word of the Week: Knuffig

The digital age has served to showcase all things "knuffig" or "knuddelig" in this world, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

A blustery day along the Baltic Sea coast in northeastern Germany.

Word of the Week: 'Schmuddelwetter'

Although Germany is the world's biggest solar power producer, its northerly regions, in particular, are prone to "Schmuddelwetter" - rainy, overcast weather, often coupled with remarkably refreshing oceanic breezes.

© Germany.info

Word of the Week

Word of the Week

do Deutsch

Do Deutsch

The German language opens up a wealth of opportunities. Learn why you should "just add German" here on our do Deutsch pages.