Hosenscheiser and Heularsch.

From Thomas Mann, “Goethe’s Faust,” on Goethe’s unfinished farce “Hans Wurst’s Wedding” (courtesy of Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti):

He will hear nothing of the preparations for the celebration of the nuptials; nor of the guests, among whom are “all the great names of the German world.” No, what he wants is just to be off with his Ursel to the hayloft. But what sort of “great names” are these? They are simply a list of the vulgarest folk-epithets in the language, with which Goethe displays an astonishing, well-nigh exhaustive conversance. I will not attempt to translate these for you. The list includes not only such common terms as Vetter Schuft, Herr Schurk, and Hans Hasenfuss, but other such gems as Schnuckfozgen, Peter Sauschwanz, Scheismaz, Schweinpelz, Lauszippel, Rotzloffel, Jungfer Rabenas, Herren Hosenscheiser and Heularsch — and so on and on, in endless number.

Er will nichts wissen von den Hochzeitsumständlichkeiten, zu denen alles ins Haus kommt, »was die deutsche Welt an großen Namen nur enthält«, sondern will einfach mit seiner Ursel auf den Heuboden. Was sind das übrigens für große Namen? Es sind lauter deutsch-herkömmliche Schimpf- und Ekelnamen der derbsten Art, von denen Goethe sich zum Gebrauch eine erstaunlich kundige und erschöpfende Liste angelegt, auf welcher nicht nur so Gewöhnliches figuriert wie Vetter Schuft, Herr Schurk und Hans Hasenfuß, sondern auch solche Perlen wie Schnuckfözgen, Peter Sauschwanz, Scheismaz, Schweinpelz, Lauszippel, Rotzlöffel, Jgfr. Rabenas, die Herren Hosenscheißer und Heularsch und so in unendlicher Reihe fort.

Gilleland adds:

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread — I will attempt to translate these for you, although I’m conscious of being way out of my league here:

• Vetter Schuft = cousin blackguard
• Schurk = Schurke = scoundrel
• Hasenfuß = literally hare’s foot, figuratively milksop, coward
• Schnuckfözgen = poisonous gas belcher (schnucken = belch, Fözgen = phosgene, a poisonous gas)
• Sauschwanz = sow penis
• Scheismaz = shit food
• Schweinpelz = pig skin
• Lauszippel = Lauszipfel = louse penis (cf. Zipf, cognate with English tip)
• Rotzlöffel = snot spoon
• Jungfer Rabenas = Jungfrau Rabenaas = maid raven-carrion (Rabe = raven, Aas = cadaver)
• Hosenscheißer = pants shitter
• Heularsch = howl arse

You can see a scan of the dramatis personae at the link.

Comments

  1. PlasticPaddy says

    Lauszipfel for me is “rotten/lousy penis”, compare Lausbube. I agree Laus = louse but it is figurative in the compounds, as is Schwanz, lit. “tail”.

  2. That’s the kind of thing it’s easy to miss if you’re not a native speaker or haven’t immersed yourself in the language enough. But he did warn us he was way out of his league.

  3. Schnuckfözgen appears to be Schnückfötzchen in the image. I don’t know why Phosgen would be written as Fözgen anyway, and phosgene wasn’t named until decades after the play was started (though before Goethe died).

  4. Good catch — it’s Fötzchen ‘cunt, snatch.’ I’ll drop him a line.

  5. So did Goethe make these names up himself or were they actually insults in general use at the time? I haven’t come across any of them in modern German, but that doesn’t say much. It’s hard to choose, but I think ‘Hasenfuss’ is my favourite, it just sounds inherently hilarious to me. I was curious about ‘Sauschwanz’ -didn’t quite seem to make sense, but I see now that ‘Sau’ regionally and archaically can also designate a male pig. And I also noticed that ‘Sauschwanz’ can be used for a piece of climbing equipment, some sort of anchor, and here ‘Schwanz’ has its literal meaning of ‘tail’ -presumably abseilers refrain from excessive use of this insult, as it would result in too much confusion.

  6. If Thomas Mann says “They are simply a list of the vulgarest folk-epithets in the language, with which Goethe displays an astonishing, well-nigh exhaustive conversance,” I think we can take as given that he didn’t make them up.

  7. MG has corrected the Schnückfötzchen error (thanking Keith Ivey in the process).

  8. When I was of age, there were still ethnically-based soccer clubs in Chicago, and the Germans (some of whom were Bayerisch) I played with used schweinschwanz, though not sauschwanz in my hearing.

    The system was breaking down, and the team I played with the longest was a Swedish club whose players were almost entirely Irish immigrants, except, weirdly, for the two Texans who worked as immigration enforcement officers. They had a sort of wolf and sheepdog relationship (“Morning, Sam.” “Morning, Ralph”) to the team, most of whom had not entered the country legally.

    There simply weren’t enough young Swedes to make up a team anymore. I wonder when the transition happened.

    Around the holidays they would have a big team dinner at the clubhouse, where the aging Swedes would fete the young Irish with whiskey and lutefisk for upholding the honor of the nation.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Fözgen = phosgene

    Oh, that’s cute. Very creative, I must say.

    Absolutely, definitely Fötzchen. Keep in mind there was no orthography before 1901, and Goethe is from far enough north that his g was a /ɣ/ in some sense or other.

    Schurke = scoundrel

    Also used to translate villain, the sense that isn’t simply obsolete. Schuft, in contrast, obsolete enough that I don’t even know if it has a more specific meaning than “bad guy” – but it’s a common insult in literature.

    Rotzlöffel = snot spoon

    Regionally “impertinent child”.

    Jungfrau Rabenaas = maid raven-carrion

    Yes, except this might be so old that Aas still had its etymological meaning, “food”, so the whole thing would mean “carrion”.

    Scheismaz = shit food

    I suppose that’s etymologically possible, but I’ve only seen -matz as a suffix for persons, like… Hemdenmatz “little boy toddling around in a shirt or perhaps undershirt”, Piepmatz “tweety-bird”, and I think that’s it. Scheißmatz would then make sense as Scheißkerl, “shitty guy” or more likely “shitty little boy”.

    Heularsch = howl arse

    Yes, but with “howling” for generic crying, as in “crybaby”.

    So did Goethe make these names up himself or were they actually insults in general use at the time?

    I bet they were in general use in his time and place. Some of them I’ve never encountered before, and others are hopelessly literary today, but that means nothing.

    I’ve also never encountered schnucken or schnücken. “Burp” doesn’t make sense here; it might mean anything.

    Er will nichts wissen von den Hochzeitsumständlichkeiten, zu denen alles ins Haus kommt, »was die deutsche Welt an großen Namen nur enthält«, sondern will einfach mit seiner Ursel auf den Heuboden. Was sind das übrigens für große Namen? Es sind lauter deutsch-herkömmliche Schimpf- und Ekelnamen der derbsten Art, von denen Goethe sich zum Gebrauch eine erstaunlich kundige und erschöpfende Liste angelegt, auf welcher nicht nur so Gewöhnliches figuriert wie Vetter Schuft, Herr Schurk und Hans Hasenfuß

    The translation is good, but I’ll attempt a more literal one (too literal in places).

    “He doesn’t want to hear about all that cumbersome marriage business that involves all the ‘big names’ coming into the house ‘that the German world contains’, he just wants off to the hayloft with his Ursel [Ursula]. What, by the way, are those big names like? They are lots of old-fashioned German scold and disgust names of the coarsest kind, of which Goethe [had] made an astoundingly knowledgeable and exhaustive list for [his] use, on which not only such ordinary things figure as Cousin Scoundrel, Mr. Villain and Johnny Fraidycat”…

  10. ‘Yes, but with “howling” for generic crying, as in “crybaby”.’

    Oh yes, of course. Although I should know better, I instinctively took ‘Heularsch’ to refer to someone suffering from astonishing levels of flatulence. It’s so hard to look at ‘heulen’ and not automatically think of ‘howl’ -especially as it is sometimes the right translation. I think that’s why I find ‘Abschiedsheuler’, one of the Weicheiwörter, so funny.

  11. … -matz as a suffix for persons … Scheißmatz would then make sense as Scheißkerl, “shitty guy” or more likely “shitty little boy”.

    That’s my reaction as well.

    Heuboden … hayloft

    Good one ! Heuboden could mislead many a general non-German reader, as could Dachboden. Neither of them is on the ground.

    I’m definitely not smirking here – I mislead myself all the time when I read that annoying language known as “French”. I am a martyr to false friends of Latinate provenance.

  12. This immediately reminded me of the hapless Eugene Hasenfus, whose capture by the Sandinistas led to the unraveling of the Iran-Contra business.

  13. David L. Gold says

    New High Vetter has a long pedigree in the sense of ‘paternal uncle’ (< Middle High German veter ~ vetere ‘idem’ < Old High German fetiro ‘idem’ < Proto-West Germanic *faderjō *‘idem’, a reconstructed meaning supported not only by those reflexes of that reconstructed word but also by the attested meaning of its attested cognates in Greek [πάτρως ‘idem’] and Latin [patruus ‘idem’]).

    Vetter Schuft could therefore mean *’Uncle…’ rather than *‘Cousin…’. Is there evidence for one interpretation rather than the other? Thomas Mann may have written ‘Cousin…’ only because that was the usual meaning of Vetter in his day.

    By the way (the following is not part of the foregoing line of reasoning), the Yidish for ‘uncle‘ and ‘aunt‘ are to this day respectively פֿעטער (feter) and מומע (mume).

  14. Jungfrau Rabenaas = maid raven-carrion

    Idiomatically, I’d translate it as ‘Miss Crowmeat’.

  15. David Marjanović says

    de.wiktionary, DWDS and even Grimm are of little help in teasing out when the numerous expansions and contractions of the meaning of Vetter happened. Grimm made clear, though, that “father’s brother” is the oldest meaning as expected (…though Wiktionary disagrees and puts “father’s brother’s son” first… without citations); apparently “uncle” came next, then “male cousin”, then “male relative” (which is still current in more literary texts, especially as a metaphor), also “grandson” which I didn’t know, and sometimes uncles and nephews referred to each other as Vetter.

    All four of Vetter “father’s brother”, Oheim “mother’s brother”, Base “father’s sister” and Muhme “mother’s sister” occur in old or archaizing literature, and very rarely elsewhere (Die kleine Hexe, from 1957, has a wholly unexplained Muhme). Base is used straight as “female cousin” in less old literature. Other than all that, I’d call all four words obsolete. Even the insults based on Base (e.g. Klatschbase “gossipy woman”) are obsolete.

    …of course I wouldn’t be surprised to find dialects that have preserved any of these in any meanings. (Grimm mentioned a considerable diversity.) I just don’t happen to know any.

  16. David Marjanović says

    Oh, BTW, Oheim is one of apparently two native words with a /h/, as opposed to /x/, in the middle. The other is Ahorn, “maple”. The trick is that they’re phonologically treated as if they were compounds of Heim and Horn, also explaining their unreduced second-syllable vowels, even though /aː/ and /oː/ are not identifiable morphemes.

    …anymore, because Oheim is *awa-haimaz, the first part cognate to Latin avus and thus avunculus. But Ahorn is not a compound, it’s a nominalized adjective “pointy“.

  17. Paul’s Deutsches Wörterbuch (9th ed, 1992) says “noch bei Lu sind V. und Oheim ‘Mutterbruder’ voneinander getrennt” and quotes Heinrich von Kleist for the meaning “‘Onkel’ überhaupt”; for the meaning “Neffe” Goethe’s letters are quoted.

    Schnuckfözgen: there is a word Schnuckel(chen) “Liebkosungswort nicht nur für Kinder”.

    Is this the same Thomas Mann who once (in conversation with a (female) secretary while working on Doktor Faustus) claimed not to be aware of the everyday meaning of the verb ficken?

  18. I find it peculiar that Hasenfuss is a conventionalized insult, but for the English king Harold Harefoot, the byname seems to have been complimentary (with the reading, which seems equally natural on general principles, of “fleet footed”).

    Separately: I remember in the first season of Breaking Bad (before the show could afford a scientific advisor), the writers got the poisonous gasses phosgene and phosphine confused.

  19. A poison gas sampler. A thoughtful gift for the adventurous.

  20. DWDS is quite helpful s.v. Schuft:

    Schurke, ehrlose, gemeine Person’ (um 1800), ‘armseliger, häßlicher, heruntergekommener Mensch’ (18. Jh.), ‘verarmter Adliger’ (17. Jh.). Der Ausdruck ist nd. Herkunft, seine literatursprachliche Verwendung folgt dem jeweiligen nd. Gebrauch. Nd. Schuft, Schufft, Schofft gilt als Zusammenziehung von mnd. schūvūt, nd. Schuvuut ‘Uhu’, einer den Ruf des Tieres (als schieb aus gedeuteten) nachahmenden Bezeichnung. Der Name wird als Schimpfwort (Anfang 17. Jh.) auf den wie die Eule das Tageslicht scheuenden verarmten Edelmann und Raubritter übertragen.

  21. David Marjanović says

    Huh. Interesting.

    claimed not to be aware of the everyday meaning of the verb ficken?

    Is there another meaning?

    Perhaps he claimed to be unaware of the etymological, non-sexual meaning, which indeed must have been forgotten long before the word was first documented?

  22. PlasticPaddy says

    Aber lassen wir Hilde Kahn selbst sprechen: Ich tippte das Manuskript und bin vor Lachen fast vom Stuhl gefallen. Da kommt doch die Mutter von dem Mann, der gerade Papst geworden ist, und fragt, ob denn ‚die ganze Fickfackerei‘ ihres früheren Lebens ihr verziehen werden kann. Als ich die Abschriften zurückbrachte, fragte Thomas Mann, ob es mir gefallen habe. Ich sagte, es sei ganz wunderbar, nur dies eine Wort sei etwas drastisch. Und jetzt müssen Sie sich Katia vorstellen … Wie, was, man wagte, den Gatten zu kritisieren? Die Haare standen ihr zu Berge. Er sagte: ‚Na, um welches Wort geht es denn?“ Ich sagte: ‚Nun ja, Fickfackerei, das ist doch sehr deutlich, auf deutsch und auf englisch.‘ ‚Aha‘, sagt Mann, ‚ich sehe, was Sie meinen; nun sehen Sie, dieses Wort ist ein altes Lutherwort. ‚Ja, was will sie denn?‘ sagt darauf Katia. ‚Nun ja‘, sagt Thomas, ‚sie denkt an das Wort ficken‘ – ‚Ficken?‘ sagt Katia. ‚Habe ich noch nie gehört, was bedeutet das denn?‘ Darauf er: ‚Ficken, das bedeutet, sexuellen Verkehr zu haben.‘ – Ich wäre am liebsten in den Boden versunken. Er ging ganz nachdenklich in sein Zimmer, und was passiert? Er hat die ganze Seite neu geschrieben; es wurde: ‚die Fickfackerei meines Herzens‘, und er hat mir nämlich erklärt, Fickfackerei, das bedeutet sich etwas vormachen, sich anlügen.
    Source: https://loomings-jay.blogspot.com/2015/04/fickfackerei.html?m=1
    From the above, it was Katia, not Thomas, who did not know the word. I do not know how old Katia was at this time (I think she had grown-up children), although a Mann-Kenner could work it out. I also believe that the quoted text of Hilde Kahn comes from her book “Thomas Mann, mein Boß”, but the blog extract does not explicitly state this.

  23. Well, Katia came from a wealthy family and may have been sheltered from that kind of language. And it’s often random what kind of colloquialisms for having sex one learns; I learnt ficken, bumsen and vögeln already as a school boy, but poppen only when I was about 50.

  24. Yes, I don’t find it hard to believe of sheltered women in that day. It’s hard for us to realize how assiduously “decent” women were protected from all unpleasant/sexual aspects of reality in Western Europe; many young women had literally no idea what to expect on their wedding night.

  25. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    A cousin of my father’s married at the age of about 40 someone (maybe 50) who had been interned throughout the war in Burma (though I don’t think anything particularly nasty happened to him, apart from losing his freedom of movement). A year or two after they were married she wrote to my aunt and said that they were worried that there didn’t seem to be any children on the way. The problem was that they had no idea what they were supposed to do. Anyway, my aunt wrote back and told them in a forthright way, and they went on to have two daughters, so presumably my aunt’s advice was effective.

    She herself had learned these things from my mother when she was about 18, as her own family had told her nothing. My mother had grown up in Dublin in a family where they were more open about it. (She also had two older sisters who had probably told her things that her parents had not.)

    I have read that a remarkable proportion of couples who ask for advice at fertility clinics, maybe 10%, though that seems barely believable, prove to have no idea what they are supposed to do.

  26. An “idea” of what they are supposed to do is only part of the story, is my impression, and is not always needed. There must at least be situational opportunities, in particular a freedom from being observed, at least occasionally. A little booze helps too, a hot summer’s day, the smell that dares not speak its name … And at least one person must respond to these stimulants.

    Otherwise, how to explain how Tess got preggers ?

    I see a similar phenomenon in the dog Sparky. He’s forever straining at the leash when a bitch heaves into view, especially one in heat or recently so, and there’s a lot of sniffing and running in circles around each other. But Sparky doesn’t seem to have a clear goal. Sometimes he loses interest and wanders off. Other times he suddenly is almost astride the bitch from behind, as if he had been magicked there – so I pull him off (to avoid any accusations by a passive-aggressive Frauchen).

    Instinct is only vaguely similar to intention. They can be equifinal, though, which causes a lot of confusion.

  27. I have read that a remarkable proportion of couples who ask for advice at fertility clinics, maybe 10%, though that seems barely believable, prove to have no idea what they are supposed to do.

    When I was an impressionable teenager, there was a story going round that some ancient people (I think it was the Cretans) bonked each other so eagerly and frequently that they didn’t realize it was the cause of babies appearing some months later.

    This was probably nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of students at a boys-only school in dismal and repressed England.

  28. David Marjanović says

    I think it was the Cretans

    I read it about some tribe in the Amazon rainforest, probably the Yanomami – except it mentioned that there was lots of rape going on.

  29. I read the same story about some Pacific island cultures, I forget where. Not anywhere near Samoa though, despite Margaret Mead. Is it in Faces of Culture?

    The story continues, perhaps more realistically, that the paternal function in raising children would be taken by the mother’s brothers, because no one could be sure who the biological father was.

    Any culture that had domestic animals must have figured things out by observation. With hunter-gatherers, perhaps not as much, but hunter-gatherers are pretty close observers of animal behaviour.

    I don’t really know, but I’m suspicious that the story may be the product of the over-active imaginations of repressed anthropologists.

  30. I’m suspicious that the story may be the product of the over-active imaginations of repressed anthropologists teenagers

  31. I learned it was the Trobriand Islanders.

  32. Unspecified Australian Aborigines, here.

  33. I found an article https://slate.com/technology/2013/01/when-did-humans-realize-sex-makes-babies-evolution-of-reproductive-consciousness-of-the-cause-of-pregnancy.html which links the story to Malinovski and the Trobriand Islanders – but subsequent research did not confirm the original story.

  34. Great find! The Trobriand Islanders rang a bell with me as well, but I didn’t trust my memory enough to say so.

  35. Malinowski reports somewhere that some Trobrianders ridiculed the possible connection of sex to reproduction with the counterexample of a poor mentally challenged woman with a passel of children on the grounds that no one could possibly have wanted to have sex with her.

    [I wish I had never started commenting under my real name…]

  36. Well, Christians, too…

    If the story is true about Malinowski, it might be a good illustration of how much anthropologists missed by not working with women.

  37. There have been numerous claims of various indigenous groups that did not understand the nature of human conception. So far as I know, these assertions have never stood up to careful anthropological scrutiny. However, it seems like a idea that could have been spawned many times, and it has been used often in fiction as a way to illustrated the primitivity of various tribal groups (like the Clan of the Cave Bear Neanderthals). See here and following for further comments.

    (Since the Trobrianders have specifically been mentioned, I want to make a cricket joke, but I can’t think of a good one. Supply your own as needed.)

  38. Lars Mathiesen says

    Skidtmads has been borrowed into Danish as an adjective: jeg er skidtmads ~ ‘I’m feeling poorly’. I don’t know if that bears on what Goethe thought it meant.

  39. Lars Mathiesen says

    (I tried to take advantage of the new server to change my email address, but I get put in moderation. At least that’s better than the comments disappearing without trace).

  40. PlasticPaddy says

    @lars
    Looking up skidtmads in the online Danish dictionary, the card game (and the “shit” card) is also called sorteper (schwarzer Peter). Zwarte Piet is Saint Nicholas’ helper in Holland, traditionally a Moor (maybe also in Denmark?). So what I am saying is that Shit Matt may be an impolite form for Black Matt, hypothetically a black person or person of swarthy colouring.

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