Dähmlagg“, ‘Aas’, ‘Bläbs’, ‘Eemr’: Who would utter expressions like these? A Dresdener would. But only if he’s cursing. The typical inhabitant of the Elbe metropolis is actually quite forbearing and adaptable by nature, but when his patience is tested to breaking point, he loses his composure and exclaims ‘Flädz, ‘Iesche’, ‘Labbn’, ‘Sagggesichd’, ‘Safdsagg’, ‘Seechbiggse’ and the like. Obviously, some locals have a lower threshold than others, and visitors from other parts of Germany might be forgiven for thinking that the country’s elegant counterpart to Florence has mutated into a city of whingers.
Academics at TU Dresden have recently been awarded a whopping 7.4 million euros in funding to research into the causes of such outbursts. Among the questions they aim to answer over the next four years are why the normally imperturbable Saxons curse so freely and why they have a tendency to wind each other up. Is it an act of self-defence against some perceived slight, or is there more to it? The occasional bout of swearing is certainly not to be confused with the moaning, ranting, haranguing and bluster of a political nature which is always about dividing people.
Extensive grumble repertoire with taste
One thing the researchers already know: Dresdeners have an extensive stock of such expressive terms. The Saxon dialect also has a knack for spicy conflations. Take, for example, ‘Blinse’. In the Elbe valley, this usually refers to a type of lightly fried, thin pancake. But if a Dresdener calls somebody a ‘Blinse’, he is implying that the other person is an idiot, a pretty pathetic and stupid specimen. That’s the way it is with words in the Saxon dialect: they can refer to a culinary delight but can equally be used as an insult, and a very cutting one at that.
Cordial and honest – this is how Dresdners grumble
But whether it’s ‘Blinse’, ‘Dussl’ or ‘Hadrlumb’, Saxon imprecations always have traces of cordiality. A ‘Nieslbriehm’ or a ‘Nulbe’ should not be taken to heart. Even the most vigorous rebuke still leaves room for hope. When a real Dresdener verbally explodes, he wants to express his frustration, something done in the heat of the moment.
Ranting is for him the best medicine, a kind of laxative for pent-up emotions. And another thing: Dresdeners let off steam because they are honest to the core; they tell you what they think in no uncertain terms and feel strong and secure for having done so. The spontaneous outcry releases a cocktail of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, oxytocin and phenethylamine in the brain. That feels good. Goddfordammichnochäma!
Dr Peter Ufer is a Dresden based writer. His publications include “Der große Gogelmosch – das Wörterbuch der Sachsen” (The concise Gogelmosch: a dictionary of the Saxon dialect), “Der komische Gogelmosch – die Witze der Sachsen” (The funny Gogelmosch: the jokes of the Saxons) as well as “Deutschland, deine Sachsen” (Germany, may I present your Saxons?). Since 2008, he has sat on the panel of judges who select the Sächsisches Wort des Jahres (Saxon Word of the Year) and organises the annual German Cartoon Prize in Dresden.