7 Words That’ll Win You the Heart of a Wiener

No matter how well you speak German, these words will impress any Viennese.

Learning German is hard. But Viennese, that’s your Haberer. Austrians may nod approvingly if you put together a coherent sentence, harmonizing the Akkusativpronomen correctly with the subject. But they’ll adore and abbussel you if you enrich your vocabulary with just one word of Wienerisch. So, here’s our crash course.


The Viennese adore babies, but they also adore small dogs. And, of course, they adore it when somebody proves beyond reasonable doubt just how idiotic he or she is (what’s German for Schadenfreude again?). Luckily, one word fits the bill for all these purposes! A Zwutschgerl is originally a little kid or baby, but of course it can also be applied lovingly to fun-sized four-legged friend and, reproachfully, for anyone behaving like a real Depp.


A couple of years later, your Zwutschgerl may well turn into a Strizzi. (And no, we don’t mean a chihuaha becoming a German shepherd). Somewhat mischievous yet mostly adorable boys are lovingly called Strizzi. Cute, isn’t it? Before we forget, though, better not call an adult man that – unless you want to make it perfectly clear that they are a pimp.


The Viennese have an opinion on everything, but that doesn’t mean they want to get involved. So they came up with the fitting word Gschaftlhuaba for any busybody who needs to be constantly active. Can’t people just stand on the sidelines and complain, as any sensible Wiener would do?


Viennese wordsWhether you’re shopping for groceries or a new laptop, a Sackerl is how you bring it home. Beware of ever (!) using the word Tüte if you need a bag – in Vienna, you will just earn offended stares (weirdly enough, you can easily order a Tüte of ice cream; but Stanitzel is the more apt Wienerisch term). Finally, also beware of Sacklpicker – literally translated as “bag glu-er.” That’s what the Viennese call convicts.


Viennese wordsA Strawanza is somebody who gallivants all over town. Well, not quite perhaps. While the English verb “gallivanting” comes from the French gallant, i.e. the process of gallantly winning a lady’s heart, the Viennese strawanzen derives from the Italian stravagante, meaning strange, weird or extravagant. Well, I guess you know what kind of people roam Vienna’s streets.


Viennese wordsNow if you put them all together – the Zwutschgerl large and small, the Strizzis and Gschaftlhuabas, the Sacklpicker and Strawanzer – you most certainly get a huge Palawatsch. That is, sheer pandemonium– certified by Italians, who gifted us this word, originally balordaggine (clumsiness). The best thing you can do at such a time is just sit down and enjoy a tasty Palatschinke – the sweet pancake the Bohemians gave us to deal with all this Italian-induced chaos.


Viennese wordsAt the end, though, there is just one word to describe them all and our city. Wien ist einfach leiwand. Stated with the right intonation and conviction, a firm leiwand in pretty much any situation that’s cool, fresh, ace, sweet, cray-cray, savage, sharp, noice, or whatever else you can come up with, will melt the frozen (yet golden) Viennese heart.

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Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

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