Word of the Week: 'Schmuddelwetter'

Apr 20, 2011

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.

A view of Hamburg's harbor with clouds rolling in. Enlarge image A view of Hamburg's harbor with clouds rolling in. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Schmuddelwetter (Schmuddelwedder)

Although Germany is the world's biggest solar power producer, its more northerly and easterly regions, in particular, often experience lots of "Schmuddelwetter" in early spring, when "April showers bring May flowers," as the universal saying goes.

In northern maritime cities such as Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck, Rostock or Kiel, you may hear people refer, moreover, to "Schmuddelwetter" - literally dirty, foul, or mucky weather - as "Schmuddelwedder," with an emphasis on the double "dd's" towards the end and a flat enunciation of the final "e" along the lines of the various "Plattdeutsch" dialects spoken across northern Germany. Visitors huddle near Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate on a rainy day in June, 2010. Enlarge image Visitors huddle near Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate on a rainy day in June, 2010. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

This type of weather could encompass anything from a mild mist of rain, or "Nieselregen", accompanied by genuinely refreshing, if at times bracing, oceanic air, in a major city such as Hamburg, to an all out thunderstorm.

The word "Schmuddelwetter" is - like so many German compound nouns - a mish-mash of words, with "Schmuddel" being derived from "schmuddelig" (literally dirty, in the natural or naughty sense of the word), and "Wetter" simply meaning weather.

Although this word may be less commonly used in southern Germany or Austria, where the sun shines somewhat more frequently on a regular basis, it is a kind of a classic in the northern half of Germany, where you could really dazzle your German friends by saying something like: "Mensch, ist das ein Schmuddelwett(dd)er heute!" (Man, is this some Schmuddelwetter today!)

© Germany.info

Word of the Week

A blustery day along the Baltic Sea coast in northeastern Germany.

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