Word of the Week: 'Schnäppchen'

Apr 15, 2011

Sale sign Enlarge image Window shopping, anyone? (© pa/ZB) Over the course of the year, Germany.info and The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


Schnapps is of course a drink. Many varieties of this strong alcoholic beverage are savored in the German-speaking world in tiny shot glasses as an after-dinner "digestif". On this side of the Atlantic, a little glass of peach schnapps, for instance, may not be totally unknown to otherwise straightlaced college kids eager to sample an "adult" drink for the first time during a night out on the town.

Although Schnapps is a classic traditional beverage in Germany, it is also used in a deragotory fashion to describe a bad idea deemed destined to failure - a Schnappsidee.

In this vein, a father might tell his 15-year-old daughter that going on a solo road trip with her new boyfriend is "a total Schnappsidee!" Aldi - "prices reduced again" Enlarge image Aldi - "prices reduced again" (© picture-alliance/dpa) A tiny glass of Schnapps could be described as a Schnäppschen (not the second "s"), such as when a gracious Austrian hostess would tell a group of well-fed dinner guests: "Komm, trinken wir gemeinsam noch ein kleines Schnäppschen!" (Come on, let's all drink a little schnapps together!)

But a Schnäppchen, more often than not, usually refers to a bargain. Hence stores will advertise their wares during annual seasonal sales as available zum Schnäppchenpreis (for a total bargain price!).

Similarly, a shopper who believes he or she has gotten a great deal on a purchase will say about a specific item: "Mensch, das war ja echt ein totales Schnäppchen!" (Wow, that really was a total bargain!)

On a more sombre note, someone who is acting really offended about something may be referred to as total eingeschnappt (totally ticked off).

In the natural world, birds in particular might be described as snapping their beaks in foraging for food, for instance: "Die Gans schnappte nach dem Brot." (The goose snapped at the bread.)

If the bread was free for the goose, it was a real "Schnäppchen."

© Germany.info

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