German word of the day: Die Goaßgschau

Why do we sometimes find ourselves staring into space for no reason? And why don’t we have a word for this in English? Well the Bavarians do: die Goaßgschau.

German word of the day: Die Goaßgschau
A true 'Goaßgeshau'. Photo: Depositphotos/SashaKhalabuzar

What does it mean?

Die Goaßgschau is not a word that you’d hear everywhere across German speaking countries; rather it’s a dialect word that’s found exclusively in Bavaria in southeast Germany. It refers to “an absent-minded gaze”. 

Perhaps it’s a term you’ll hear if you’re headed to Munich for Oktoberfest this year. 

READ MORE: 15 Bavarian words you need to survive down south

What are its origins? 

A Goaßgschau is something we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives. We’ve done it ourselves and we’ve watched other people do it, though we probably didn’t consider that someone out there had named the concept.

An alternative phrase in English that communicates the idea of not quite being present is “to be away with the fairies”, though this British term doesn't quite capture the notion of a staring blankly at nothing. 

In English Goaßgschau translates to “the stare of a goat”, or a person’s absent-minded gaze which resembles that of a goat’s blank stare. 

Goaß is the Bavarian dialect word for goat (as opposed to the standard German word die Ziege) and Gschau is the Bavarian dialect word for a person’s facial expression (which is quite far off from the standard German word Der Gesichtsausdruck).

Goaßgschau: Why do we do it?

As presented in a report by Galileo, the University of Wisconsin conducted research into why we all do a Goaßgeshau.

We usually stare into space whilst we’re working, and according to their findings, a Goaßgshau is an automatic human mechanism which helps us process new information. It also helps us refocus our concentration.

Examples of Goaßgshau

“Hallo!! Hörst du mich?” …“Sorry, Goaßgschau!”
Can you hear me? … Sorry, I was away with the fairies.
“Das sogenannte Goaßgschau kennt jeder von uns.”
Everyone know what the so called “stare of a goat” is all about.
“Wenn nun jemand während einer Vorlesung abwesend ist, Dann ist das Goaßgschau in seiner schönsten Form zu beobachten.”
When someone's not quite present during a lecture, then the Goaßgschau can be observed in its purest form.

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German word of the day: Merkwürdig

When something strange catches your eye, it's often helpful to reach for this German word.

German word of the day: Merkwürdig

Why do I need to know merkwürdig?

Because once you do know it, you’ll probably find it’s one of those adjectives you end up using time and time again. It’s also a far more interesting and descriptive alternative to a common word you may have learned in your A1 or A2 class – and we happen to think it’s also pretty fun to say.

What does it mean?

Merkwürdig, which is pronounced like this, can be used to describe anything you find strange, odd or a bit out of place – or perhaps something that makes you a bit mistrustful. In that sense, it can be a good stand-in for the word komisch, which many beginner German learners tend to overuse. 

However, it’s important to note that merkwürdig isn’t an exact synonym for komisch. The word is a combination of two other German words: merken, which means to notice or remark upon, and würdig, meaning worthy. 

READ ALSO: The German words I want to use, but just don’t dare

In that sense, you can think of merkwürdig a little like the English word remarkable, although the word außergewöhnlich is more likely to be used if the situation or observation is a positive one. Things that are merkwürdig may provoke astonishment, curiosity or surprise and are therefore worth noticing or remarking upon. 

Use it like this:

Ich finde sein merkwürdiges Verhalten ein bisschen abschreckend.

I find his strange behaviour a bit off-putting.

Sie befindet sich momentan in einer merkwürdigen Situation. 

She finds herself in an odd situation at the moment.