Word of the Week: Sinsamsodara

May 10, 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.


© picture-alliance/chromorange Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/chromorange) Now, this is a word to win you every $100 bet that it really exists – also against Germans!  Nobody will believe it … unless they come from the Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate), a district in Bavaria, and know this local, nearly extinct expression.  So make sure before you bet that dialect words are admissible.  We got inspired by Bavarian television and present this word to show the abundant wealth and playful wit of countless German dialects beyond the realm of “Hochdeutsch” (High or standard German).

A “Sinsamsodara” (with stress on the third syllable) is a daydreamer, somebody who always has his or her head in the clouds.  Standard German would offer the words “Träumer” (dreamer), “Traumtänzer” (“dream dancer”) oder “Schwärmer” (“dreamer”, “sentimentalist”). 

It is a compound noun of “Sinsam-” and “Sodara”.  The first “-sam-” is the local version of “säumig” or “saumselig” (belated, negligent, prone to miss s.th.) – you may have heard the sentence: “Du versäumst das Flugzeug!” – “You will miss the plane!” –, and the playful “Sinsam” is just an onomatopoetic extension to denote a person who will always be late and miss things.

To boil water until it bubbles is called “sieden” in German.  In cooking, “Sud” is the brew or the stock.  Now imagine a big pot with boiling water, covered by a lid, and it is simmering slowly, with the bubbles lifting the lid and making that typical rattling, babbling noise – do you hear it?  Turn the pot in your imagination into a person, sitting without moving, babbling something without sense or purpose, and there you have him, the “Soderer” or “Sodara”!

Both halves of the word actually describe more or less the same, a rather calm and slow person who doesn’t bother much with reality because his or her mind is always busy in some dreamy inner world that doesn’t make much sense to us.  The Oberpfalz Bavarian dialect joins both words as pleonasm or tautology to form an actually very affectionate compound noun, making it clear that a “Sinsamsodara” is REALLY out there, and won’t get it — Got it?  Good!


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