Word of the Week: Steckenpferd

Sep 21, 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.

Steckenpferd

A child kisses his homemade "Steckenpferd" (Hobby Horse) in October 2010 at an event in the northern German city of Osnabrück celebrating the Treaty of Westphalia (1648). Enlarge image A child kisses his homemade "Steckenpferd" (Hobby Horse) in October 2010 at an annual event called the "Steckenpferdumzug" (Hobby Horse Procession) in the northern German city of Osnabrück celebrating the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which was concluded in Münster and Osnabrück to put an end to the 30 Years' War. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Everyone should have their own Steckenpferd (hobby horse) to indulge with childlike glee in something they truly relish doing. But they should not ride their Steckenpferd too hard, either.

Comprised of two nouns - Stecken (stick) and Pferd (horse) - this expression is used as it would be in English to mean "hobby horse" in both a literal and a figurative sense.

In this vein, a Steckenpferd can be a little "horse on a stick" kids use to "ride" around on, or it can be a person's favorite pastime, or hobby.

At the same time, however, the word Steckenpferd can be used in a pejorative sense to underscore a particular issue or set of issues which an individual might endlessly go on about.

A Steckenpferd can thus, beyond meaning a hobby horse in the literal sense, or a hobby in a positive sense, be a "pet issue" someone expounds upon (often with plenty of ornery criticism!) over and over again. So a Steckenpferd, as a pet issue, can also by association be a Lieblingsthema (favorite topic) or Hauptanliegen (primary concern).

If someone cannot get off their Steckenpferd, you might say "sein Steckenpferd reiten," which translates as an idiom into "to be on one's hobby horse." But Germans more commonly say "auf etwas herumreiten" (to ride around on something) to describe a person who keeps rambling on about the same subject.

© Germany.info

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