Word of the Week: Honigkuchenpferd

Jul 2, 2014

If you've got a big dorky grin across your face, a German might tell you that you're grinning like a Honigkuchenpferd - a "honey-cake-horse." Basically, a horse-shaped honey cake. But why the strange comparison?

Honigkuchenpferd Enlarge image (© Wikimedia Commons / Frank C. Müller) Well, even Germans aren't quite sure where the expression came from, but they use it frequently. A close English equivalent would be "to grin like a Cheshire cat", since the striped purple cat from Alice in Wonderland is known for its excessively large smile. 

A Honigkuchenpferd, on the other hand, is a Lebkuchen (gingerbread) horse that usually has a big grin painted onto its face with icing (these are often found on fairgrounds and marketplaces). But rather than describe the pastry, Germans more often use the term to describe a person with a grin so big that it lights up the room.

A teenager who just had his or her first date might be grinning like a Honigkuchenpferd - or someone who just got a promotion at work. Whatever the reason, their smile is unusually large - almost as large as the smile on a horse-shaped honey cake.

There are multiple other ways to make the comparison as well: someone can laugh like a horse-shaped honey cake (lachen wie ein Honigkuchenpferd) or radiate like a horse-shaped honey cake (strahlen wie ein Honigkuchenpferd) - you get the picture.

So next time you see your German-speaking friend, colleague or family member smiling from ear to ear, you may want to tease them about it and call them a Honigkuchenpferd!

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Honigkuchenpferd

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