Sock-Emperor and Button-King

After the Compromise of 1867, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was ruled by an Monarch who was called kaiserlich und koeniglich (Imperial and Royal, signifying an office with the qualities of emperor and king in a mystical melting-together called Personalunion). The Empire (g) comprised, at various times, what is now the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and bits of many other nations. The western parts of the empire carried the k.u.k. designation (g) until 1918. The alliteration of the two 'K's led the Austrian writer Robert Musil to invent the designation Kakania, or Kakanien in German, a neologism which is still in use (g). Here is a translation of Musil's description of 'Kakania' in The Man Without Qualities.

Now, you might think that with the death of Emperor Franz Joseph in1916 and the collapse of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, the Austrians might have lost their taste for emperors and kings. Weit gefehlt/au contraire, not bloody likely! While strolling through the pedestrian zone in Meidling, Vienna, I found a Sockenkaiser (Sock Emperor) and a Knopfenkoenig (Button-King) ruling not 200 meters from one another, in perfect harmony:

038 Sock Emperor has Good Cheap Socks

The Button King of Meidling

I think it's time for the Sock Emperor and the Button King to join in a discreet Personalunion.

4 thoughts on “Sock-Emperor and Button-King

  1. Very funny little piece!

    Just a small note: the German phrase is actually “weit gefehlt”.

    Always enjoying your great blog, St


  2. this explanation ist a tad to royal, despite the usage in old sounding company names.
    German language has more words and phrases that contain kaiser and könig, and are simply an expression of superority

    sich königlich amüsieren…


  3. As an American living in Austria, it seems to me that Austrians are absolutely obsessed with their imperial past. Although the Kaiser’s long gone, you wouldn’t be able to tell from the long list of titles and honors people attach to their names here.

    Take a look at any Austrian website and you’ll find a string of Dr. Mag. Dipl. Ing. before people’s names – the more initials, the better they feel. Then there’s the outdated title of “Hofrat” that’s still awarded to civil servants, even though there’s no “Hof” to speak of. And that’s just one of the several imperial titles you can still get in twenty-first century Austrian society.

    Austrians have managed to work themselves up into a feverish fit, trying their desperate best to figure out how to adapt the new Anglo-Saxon style degrees to fit in at the Court of Kaiser Franz Josef. Right now you have to be saying pretentious things like “Herr Doctor Magister (Fachhochschule)”. I predict that as soon as they figure out this whole Bologna/Anglo-Saxon mess, then we’ll have to start calling people ridiculous titles like “Herr Master of Arts” and “Frau Bachelor”!

    But the really clever Austrians have decided not to wait and are already basking in the assured superiority of their Anglo-Saxon degrees. So just recently when I showed up for an appointment at some office, lo and behold, what did I see printed on the office door but “Julia Mustermann, BA”. That one kept me steadily chuckling to myself all day!

    God help me survive the “Minderwertigkeitskomplex” of the Austrians!


  4. I was so distracted by the fetching Eistütenkaiserin in the first picture (Sissi, is that you?!) that I almost overlooked the fact that the advertisement for the (rubber-free!) socks emphasises that they are also venenfreundlich.

    Had you missed that yourself, or was it a little gem that you wanted to let us to find all on our own?


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