The site of the Akademie för uns kölsche Sproch [Academy of our Cologne dialect] uses frames, so I can’t link to (for instance) the Kölsches Wörterbuch page with its “Deutsch -> Kölsch” search box, but if you have any interest in German dialects it’s a treasure trove. (In case you’re wondering, the local name for the city, Köln in standard German, is Kölle.) Here’s a sample paragraph in Kölsch (also called Ripuarisch):

Baal fängk ald widder de Weihnachtszigg aan. Dot Üür Famillich un Fründe räächziggig en kölsche Chressdags-e-Kaat schecke. Oder dot Üch us dä ungerscheedliche Kaate vun Kölle en passende erussöke. Mer bemöhe uns jo ald ärg, immer mih Kaate zesamme ze stelle för Üch, domet Ehr och en große Uswahl hatt. Trotzdäm sin mer jet knapp an Kaate. Mer wollte jo för all Gelägeheite Kaate met passende Bildcher aanbeede, vür allem ävver Kaate vun Kölle vun fröher un vun hügg.

Via Jim at UJG, who links to it in the course of a discussion of Carnival in Cologne (which begins on November 11); he ends his post with Alaaf!, which is not in the Akademie’s online dictionary; I found another online lexicon, but it just calls it an Ausruf (‘interjection’). Wat soll et bedügge, Jim?
Addendum, Jim has a full explanation, taken from Prof. Dr. Adam Wrede’s Neuer kölnischer Sprachschatz, “the Cologne equivalent of the OED.”


  1. Alaaf is what all those Jecke ‘fools’ (which is cognate with English geek) cry while staggering around Cologne in search of their next Kölsch. I’ll look at my 3 volume scholarly dictionary at home later today and see if it has an etymology and a better definition. I always thought of it as meaning ‘hurrah; heads up; watch out; coming through’.

  2. My German’s not very good, but I can certainly see that Koelle makes a certain geographical sense: it does look like Deutsch with Nederlands elements (“op” for “auf”, etc.).
    I’ll bet that a flu-hit Koelner would sound quite Flemish. (Pun intended.) Though, in the one week I spent in that lovely city, I don’t think I heard anything but standard German (but don’t get me started on Wienerisch).
    A funny experience I sometimes have in museums: I could read an inscription, translate it, and THEN try to figure out what language it’s in. The issue comes up because 16th c. High German is rather close to Dutch, and they are both relevant to my work (art history). So, especially with short inscriptions (“Als ik kan”: “As I can; To the best of my ability”), the question is, what language am I reading here? And, as you well know, spellings weren’t exactly standardized back then. Shit, if we’re looking at material closer to Chaucer than to Shakespeare, some of that stuff could pass for English.

  3. Presumably they have already translated COleridge’s poem:
    “The river Rhine, it is well known,
    Doth wash your city of Cologne;
    But tell me, nymphs! what power divine
    Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?”

  4. commonbeauty: Yes, when I was studying the Germanic languages I found that Middle Friesian was so like Middle English it wasn’t always easy to tell which you were looking at. I must admit I do kind of enjoy the Wiener dialect, with its “grüss Gott!” and disappearing r’s. Incidentally, it was quite a shock when I visited the city to find that the name Lueger (as in Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring) is pronounced LWAY-ger rather than (as the usually reliable Webster’s Biographical Dictionary has it) LÜ-ger (and it’s also telling that Vienna still has a major stretch of road named after that notoriously anti-Semitic mayor).

  5. During the year I lived in Bonn, I heard many people speaking in Bönnsch and Kölsch, some of whom were non-German “guest” workers. Ripuarian dialects are considered to be Mitteldeutsch as opposed to Hoch-, Nieder-, or Plattdeutsch. In fact most dialect speakers in Cologne call their dialect Platt. Cologne is in the middle of the so-called Rhenish fan. Some interesting corrspondences: instead of er, op for auf, aff for ab, et for es, jitt for gibt, and kütt for kommt. Most ‘r’s and ‘n’s have disappeared.

  6. Lueger and Wien: yeah, it caused me no end of worry. Let’s just say that I am in no hurry to move to Austria. They seem not to have, how does one put it delicately, come to terms with their history.
    Cologne, by the way, surely ranks as one of the most beautiful and pleasant of European cities.
    Thanks Jim, for the distinctions on the Ripuarian dialects.
    Language Hat: is Middle Friesian a direct ancestor of modern Danish? Or do I have this mixed up?

  7. Tell it to Coleridge.

  8. I used to speak decent Kölsch when I was a kid. I actually never spoke Hochdütsch correctly. It is a beautiful language, although quite foreign-sounding even for other Germans, which includes many living now in Köln… Later, when I took the German language exam for foreigners in order to join Bonn’s University, the oral exam took less than 60 seconds. Apparently, you Kölsch-speaking foreigners are highly appreciated there… 🙂
    The people I lived with as a kid were pure-bred Kölsch, and in our neighbourhood, Rudekerche, aka Rodenkirchen, I never heard much standard German… But going downtown was always bizarre: the closer you came to the inner city, the fewer people boarding the U-Bahn spoke Kölsch.
    Thank you for the links. This brought back many memories…

  9. Coleridge’s poem
    And the other one on his leaving:
    As I am a rhymer,
    And now at least a merry one,
    Mr. Mum’s Rudesheimer
    And the church of St. Geryon
    Are the two things alone
    That deserve to be known
    In the body and soul-stinking town
    of Cologne.

  10. is Middle Friesian a direct ancestor of modern Danish?
    No, it’s a direct ancestor of modern Fri(e)sian, a Low German dialect spoken (or formerly spoken) in Friesland (Fryslân), the coastal area around the Dutch-German border. Friesian names often end in -stra or -(s)ma (Sietsema, Troelstra). Here‘s a page on the current status of the language in Germany, and here is the Friesland Links page.

  11. l.h.-
    nein shprecjken ein doitchen not even alstublieft in nederlander…
    Mozilla will give you the url of the frame you seek.
    I think it’s the ding und sich of browsers

  12. Digression. Michael Moorcock’s Count Brass adventures are set in a parallel world, resembling Europe Renaissante with the names changed (and also with sorcery). I was disappointed that his world has a city named Köln: a much more appropriate name (I thought) would be Grippen, from the other part of the Latin name Colonia Agrippina.

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