German Word of the Week: Backpfeifengesicht

Over at a website called Chateau Heartiste*, the anonymous author has this to say about the above picture: 

The Germans have a word (the Germans always have a word) for “a punchable face”: Backpfeifengesicht.

That's rather hard cheese on feminism-boy, but we'll leave that aside for a moment. I found to my surprise that Backpfeifengesicht has an active double-life in English, with an eager crowd of Teutonophiles spearheading a movement to bring it into English to join Earworm, Weltschmerz, Fahrvergnügen, and other recent imports. Problem is, though, that nobody has any idea how to pronounce Backpfeifengesicht. The consonant-block 'ckpf' is, safe to say, not one many English-speakers have encountered, although it's far from the gnarliest that German has to offer.

My advice is simple: as with all German words, it's pronounced exactly as it's spelled, no matter how impossible that may seem at first.

* As for the sentiment expressed by the sign, I have emphatically no comment.

7 thoughts on “German Word of the Week: Backpfeifengesicht

  1. @Sebastian: I travel in all sorts of circles, because I am mentally strong enough not to be mesmerized and enslaved by Bad Thoughts. Right now, for instance, my bedside reading consists of this, this, and this.


  2. “Ohrfeigengesicht” is synonymous (and more familiar to me as I would also rather use Ohrfeige than Backpfeife) and very probably easier to pronounce (although it might not meet the condition that German has to sound hard, hateful and consonant-heavy).

    But the feminist Weichei in the picture doesn’t have an Ohrfeigengesicht. (We have on offer “Eierkopf”, “Milchbart”, “Brillenschlange”)

    There is also the rather unkind description: “Gesicht wie ein Feuermelder” (Reinschlagen und Wegrennen)
    (Face like a fire alarm box – punch and run away)

    There is also a nice poem by the immortal Wilhelm Busch (The universal conservation/transformation of energy (here “Kraft”) must have been discovered only a few years earlier, I guess.)

    Die Ohrfeige

    Hier strotzt die Backe voller Saft;
    Da hängt die Hand, gefüllt mit Kraft.
    Die Kraft, infolge von Erregung,
    Verwandelt sich in Schwungbewegung.
    Bewegung, die in schnellem Blitze
    Zur Backe eilt, wird hier zur Hitze.
    Die Hitze aber, durch Entzündung
    Der Nerven, brennt als Schmerzerfindung
    Bis in den tiefsten Seelenkern,
    Und dies Gefühl hat keiner gern.

    Ohrfeige heißt man diese Handlung,
    Der Forscher nennt es Kraftverwandlung.


  3. Regressing to my school days, I would say that he has a ROMIKA™-Gesicht: reintreten und sich wohlfühlen.

    (Explanation: ROMIKA™ was (is?) a brand of shoe and their slogan was just that — minus the face, of course.)


  4. I have to say, there is a whole army of metaphorical (because invisible) Backpfeifengesichter in the comments to that awful website.


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