Word of the Week: schräger Vogel

Jan 12, 2018


Last week we looked at the word Eigenbrötler, which refers to a pecular person who spends most of his time alone, doing his own thing. This week, we have another similar word for you.

Enlarge image The term schräger Vogell translates to "slanted/crooked bird." But in this case, the word schräg means "strange" instead of "crooked". And it has nothing to do with our feathery friends. 

Instead, the term refers to a semi crazy and strange person. A schräger Vogel is someone that may have unusual habits. Instead of saying "what a weirdo", you might say "what a schräger Vogel".

The term first arose in the 16th century. Back then, people used the word Vogel ("bird") to create metaphors for strange people. Those with pecularlities were often called komischer Vogel ("strange bird") or seltener Vogel ("rare bird"). In fact, the oldest documented use of this term was in the writings by Reformation leader Martin Luther!

At some point, the term evolved to schräger Vogel, but it is not clear when that evolution occurred. In addition to schräger Vogel, today we continue to use the word Vogel to refer to craziness. Instead of saying "you have a screw loose", a German might say, "Du hast einen Vogel!" ("You have a bird!").

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

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