German Word of the Week: Lügengebäude

You come home a little bit too late, a little bit too drunk, a little bit too happy. 

The wife eyes you distrustfully and asks what that flowery odor is.  "Aww, we gave a bunsch of flowers to one of the (hic) sexretaries.  Had a little party." 

Is that so.  Well, why didn’t you answer when I called you at work? 

"Uhh, you called my office, and we were all in the resheption area drinking shampagne." 

Oh really.  Well, I called the reception area too.  4 times.  The phone rang and rang. 

"Ohh, thassright!  We all went to a bar, thass right.  Freddy’s place or something…"

At this point, you are living in what a German would call a Lügengebäude — a "Building of Lies."  You pronounce it Loo*-gen-guh-BOY-duh.  In English you can, of course, spin a tissue or web of lies.  But I think the idea of crafting a nice, solid, bricks-and-mortar building of lies is more apt.  It conveys how hard it is to get out of one once you’ve built it. 

I might also add that thinkers who create large, comprehensive philosophical systems — I need hardly mention which country has the leading reputation here — build Gedankengebäude, or "Buildings of Thought." 

I’d to extend this a little down the scale.  Can I live in an Apartment of Lies(Lügenwohnung)?  Drive around in a Car of Thought (Gedankenwagen)?  Hand someone a Box of Lies (Lügenschachtel)?  The answer to all of these questions is: of course!  German is, after all, the super-duper ultra-modular Lego language.

* Actually, this pronunciation isn’t quite right, since the first ü, which has those two cute dots over it (umlauts), is pronounced a little funny.  Germans claim there’s a difference between a regular u and ü.  I thought only dogs could actually hear the difference until I began mixing up Schwül, which means humid, and Schwul, which means homosexual.  I don’t know how many times I told people that Texas has extremely homosexual summers.  That got their attention, I must say.

3 thoughts on “German Word of the Week: Lügengebäude

  1. Hm, there is definetely quite a difference between “u” and “ü” 😉 But to be honest: As a german native-speaker I never heard the words “Gedankenwagen”, “Lügenschachtel” or “Lügenwohnung”. Not everything makes sense in german 🙂 Thanks for the interesting entry!


  2. But of COURSE there’s an audible difference between “u” and “ü.” Just ask any singer, especially an English-speaking one who sings in German.

    As a “schwul” guy from another “schwül” state, believe me, it was very important to learn the differences early on…


  3. You also shouldn’t call Düsseldorf Dusseldorf [i. e. Idiotvillage].
    Btw, umlaut means “changed sound”, the dots are just called dots (Umlautpunkte, i. e. umlaut dots).
    TITLE: Gebt mir ein Weltbild!
    BLOG NAME: Stralau-Blog
    DATE: 09/06/2005 11:36:17 AM
    Unter dem Titel „German Joys“ schreibt der in Düsseldorf lehrende amerikanische Jurist Andrew Hammel (und momentan seine Urlaubsvertretung Ed Philp) darüber, wie er Deutschland wahrnimmt. Gut geschrieben, erfrischend zu lesen, ein interessanter …
    TITLE: Lügengebäude – Eine Auseinandersetzung
    BLOG NAME: bonjour tristesse
    DATE: 06/18/2005 05:19:36 PM
    Can I live in an Apartment of Lies(Lügenwohnung)? Drive around in a Car of Thought (Gedankenwagen)? Hand someone a Box of Lies (Lügenschachtel)? The answer to all of these questions is: of course! German is, after all, the super-duper ultra-modu…


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