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Monday, September 8, 2014

Stupid Cow | Mistranslation Monday

This particular mistranslation may be one of the very first that occurred between Marco and me. In fact, this it was probably the spark for one of our first arguments as well.

Original photo: Heeland Coo by Arran Moffat

It occurred early on in our relationship, when my German was quite poor, and Marco was not always able to express himself coherently in English.

Although I do not remember exactly what happened, I am positive that I did something stupid like miss a class or drop a sandwich on the ground. Whatever it was, it led to Marco calling me a blöde Kuh.

Since I only knew how to translate this expression literally at the time, I understood it as him calling me a "stupid cow."

Calling anyone a cow in English is quite harsh, especially when that person is your girlfriend. I am sure anyone would agree that calling someone stupid is also quite mean. So, when I head Marco calling me a blöde Kuh, I immediately become very upset.

This was a reaction, of course, that my boyfriend was not expecting. You see, blöde Kuh can also be used in a light-hearted way much like Americans use the term "dork" with close friends and family members. But at that point, it really didn't matter.

Let's just say that he has since learned better than to call his American girlfriend a blöde Kuh.


  1. I definitely had never heard - until reading this - that "blöde Kuh" can be used in a light-hearted way. It's probably better avoided - as Marco learned. :-) Love the Highland Cow photo!

  2. hahaha I love this story. It's so funny how things have their literal meanings and then very different ones meanings later on.

    Also I love that you used a photo of the Highland Cow - such cool looking cows with their hipster haircuts.

  3. Funny now, but it can definitely cause some problems in an inter-cultural relationship ;)

  4. Mandi | No Apathy AllowedSeptember 8, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    I have to admit, I've only heard "blöde Kuh" ever used in a very negative way -- so I would have reacted the same way you did!

  5. Mandi | No Apathy AllowedSeptember 8, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    Maybe it's a question for Twitter?

  6. One girl did actually tweet me saying that her German boyfriend calls her the same thing. So either we both have horribly mean boyfriends, or (at least some) Germans do use it light-heartedly.

  7. :) My husband says that yeah, it's generally used teasingly, but I agree that it's definitely not something I'd want to be called - in German OR in English!

  8. In his defense, I can say that he has never said it since! Hahaha.

  9. Hi! This is really helpful. A german guy called me the same and my initial reaction was not positive either :D If I am confirmed to fly to Germany to study next year, your blog will be my guide book ;)

  10. Hahaha, funny that you experienced it too :) And I hope you are able to study abroad in Germany next year! Good luck!!!


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