Word of the Week: Landpartie

May 31, 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.


Landpartie at Castle Bueckeburg near Hanover Enlarge image Landpartie at Castle Bueckeburg near Hanover (© picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv)

If some German friends will ask you one day whether you want to join them for a “Landpartie”, you should definitely agree. Especially when you are not a person who enjoys wild parties, since a “Landpartie” is just the opposite. This is a venerable German term for a trip to the countryside, focussing on the pleasures of the ride and the sensory impressions of nature and country life. So, it is not a typical party at all. Will you go now?

Where does the word come from? Like many other German words, “Landpartie” is a compound noun. The first part, “Land” is clear and homonymous to its English counterpart (land, country, countryside). The second half, the word “Partie”, is a ‘false friend’, since it does not have much in common with the English word party. A party in the sense of get-together would be “Fest” or “Feier” or – just like in English – the loanword “Party.” And if you talk about a party in a political context, the German equivalent would be “Partei”, with ‘e-i’ at the end. Again, what does the word “Partie” (with ‘i-e’) mean and where does it come from?

“Partie” originated in the French language. Many German words, sentences or phrases were derived from French, at the time the international language of noble and educated people. The term “Gallizismen“ (“gallicisms”) summarizes this group of expressions. French expressions are the second largest group of borrowings from other languages in German. Only the so called “Latinismen” (“latinisms”) appear more frequently.

The French “partie” means either “part (of)“ as a noun or “gone out/away” as a past participle. Correspondingly, the German word “Partie” can come from the first meaning, and be a round of a game or a role in an opera. But in our case it came from “gone out” or “outing”, and “Landpartie” really corresponds to the French “partie de campagne”, an excursion or outing into the countryside.

Landpartie in Brandenburg Enlarge image Landpartie in Brandenburg (© hgz) The latinism “Exkursion” (excursion) had been the proper word in German until … no, not until “Landpartie” came around. “Landpartie” or “Tour” only became fashionable expressions about a hundred years ago, when the automobile increased mobility manifold. Long before, in the 17th century, the German poet Philipp von Zesen had suggested the word “Ausflug” (a flight out, the first flight of the bees) as a German translation, and this word took hold. Funnily enough, “Ausflug” fared better over time than its turn-of-the-last-century fashionable rivals and is back in use as the standard expression for an excursion, while “Landpartie” has acquired a homey and romantic touch. “Exkursion” is still around, as well: it enjoys a scientific sound, and will denote a study or research trip.

So whenever you can join a "Landpartie", imagine a calm outing, grab a picnic basket and enjoy slowing down among friends in the beautiful German countryside.

© Germany.info

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