Word of the Week: Aus dem Häuschen

Jan 25, 2013

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.

Aus dem Häuschen

A "Spreewaldhaus" near Berlin Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/chromorange) If you become giddy with joy and excitement upon hearing some great news, you are "ganz aus dem Häuschen" (totally out of the house), an upbeat expression generally placed within a positive context.

As a figure of speech, "ganz aus dem Häuschen sein" or "völlig aus dem Häuschen sein" means "to be thrilled to bits" or "to be beside oneself with joy." A "Häuschen" is a version of "Haus" (house) used to connote a smaller home, such as a cottage. Such a "little house" (Häuschen) may moreover connote any small dwelling, including a playhouse for a kid, a home for a pet, a birdhouse (Vogelhäuschen), or the shell of snail, which is called a "Schneckenhäuschen" in German.

Carnival in Germany (Düsseldorf, 2011) Enlarge image Giddy carnival (Karneval) revelers in Germany are sometimes described as acting totally "aus dem Häuschen." (© picture-alliance/dpa)

So a sentence such as "Sie waren vor Freude ganz aus dem Häuschen" would mean "They were beside themselves with joy." Likewise, a sentence such as "Die Zuhörer/Zuschauer gerieten (völlig) aus dem Häuschen" would mean something along the lines of "The audience went delirious (with excitement/joy)."

Although this expression today is by and large given a more positive meaning, its origins in the German language are a tad darker, ranging from a descriptor for someone who is nervous or jumpy to totally crazy. In this more original context, it mean "ein Nevenbündel sein" (to be a bundle of nerves), "durchdrehen" (to flip out, to go insane) or "den Verstand verlieren" (to lose one's mind).

Freudenberg Enlarge image (© dpa - Bildfunk)

The positive connotation - at least according to one German source online (de.answers.yahoo.com) - purportedly comes from a time when many people still lived in villages. If someone in a village was the recipient of a bit of extraordinarily good news, they would run out of their house and excitedly announce these good tidings to anyone within earshot. So then this person appeared to be "ganz aus dem Häuschen" to the other residents of the village. Eventually, the expression must have stuck and became a well-known figure of speech in modern Germany.

A German rap song by the band Harris & Marteria called "Aus dem Häuschen" has incidentally been viewed by more than 3 million people on YouTube. Whether the song, which seems to take a more deadpan approach to the popular happy-go-lucky expression, makes you get up and get "aus dem Häuschen" with excitement, of course, is a matter of opinion and personal musical taste.

© Germany.info

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