Word of the Week: Wappler [ˈvaplɐ]

Noun. A Wappler is an incapable, clumsy, and generally incompetent person. Note that outright stupidity is not necessarily implied–although being a Wappler and an idiot very often goes hand in hand.

But what does Wappler really mean? It rather describes someone who’s a failure at basic tasks or simply life in general; a highly intelligent person could easily be labeled as such, if unable to master simple skills like mailing a letter, making toast, paying bills on time, parking a car, or conversing with fellow humans.

It follows that Wappler can be found in all walks of life, from barrooms to boardrooms, police stations to post offices, construction sites, bureaucracies, even parliament (some would say particularly in the latter); ineptitude is universal. The origin, though is unclear. One theory believes Wappler stems from the Latin verb vapulare: to flog, whip or beat.

This would suggest the term comes from student slang–Latin was the language of academia for centuries and physical fights between students and even professors following heated debates common in earlier times. This would explain the etymology: a Wappler was simply a fool (or faculty rival) who was cruisin’ for a bruisin.

No matter how well you speak German, the Word Of The Week will help you impress any Viennese! While learning German is not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as complicated.

But Austrians may nod approvingly if you put together a coherent sentence, harmonizing the Akkusativpronomen correctly with the subject. But they’ll love you if you enrich your vocabulary with just one word of Wienerisch. 

Strongly linked to local cultural individualities, the slangs change and evolve in all cultures around the world, the words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar with their cultural context. The Word of the Week is here to help you understand those singularities and impress the locals with some real Viennese words and expressions.

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