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My daughter came back from Kindergarten and mentioned this word to me. She said it means dumme Gans and dictionary says differently. Can someone give a few simple examples where it is used?

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What's wrong with dict.cc/?s=petze? –  elena May 14 at 11:54
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@elena, just not sure about it even after seeing the translation. My daughter told me it means "dumme Gans". –  Zhenglei May 14 at 12:06
    
Yes, but you should show that you saw the translation and explain why is not clear to you, and why do you require help here. –  c.p. May 14 at 12:11
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"dumme Gans" while not being the literal meaning of "Petze" might be an accurate qualitative description of someone who snitches. –  Tim Seguine May 14 at 18:16
    
Zitat meine kleine Schwester: "Mama! Die sagen ich bin eine Petze!" –  Robert Jun 24 at 1:27

4 Answers 4

up vote 23 down vote accepted

A "Petze" is a colloquial word that describes someone who "rats out" someone else.

Dict.cc translates it as "telltale" or "snitch". In German, the noun "Petze" or the verb "petzen/verpetzen" are mostly used by children, because it is a more childlike way to say "verraten" (betray).

An exemplary use of the word in Kindergarden or school would be that a child did something bad and the "Petze" tells the teacher.

If used by an adult, it is mostly meant either jokingly, or to express that the act of telling on someone was childish. For example, if a co-worker notices a minor mistake made by someone and tells on him to his superior (like going to the teacher), others could call him a "Petze".

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So my daughter can say something like "Du bist eine Petze." or "Er petzte"? –  Zhenglei May 14 at 12:04
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@Zhenglei Yes, "Du bist eine Petze" would accuse you of having told on her. Instead of "Er petzte", it is more common to say "er hat gepetzt" to say he generally told sth. or "er hat mich verpetzt" to say he told on me. Simple past "Er petzte" is hardly ever used in conversation, especially with a colloquial word like this. –  Kodama May 14 at 12:11
    
Yep. It's a snitch. That's the word. –  user6288 May 14 at 16:06
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@Ben Maybe that's just me watching too many American movies, but "snitch" seems a more serious term than "Petze". E.g. a mafia boss calling someone a snitch sounds perfectly fine (and most likely has troublesome consequences for that person), but the boss calling him a "Petze" in German would sound completely off, even comical. It's really mostly associated with children and possibly jokingly between relatively close adults. –  Voo May 14 at 23:07

A Petze is someone, that tells on someone else. In BE a squealer or telltale.

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...or "snitch", or "grass", or "stoolie", or... it's actually somewhat strange that German doesn't have more synonyms for this. –  Kilian Foth May 14 at 17:54

Petze, petzen, verpetzen

This is a colloquial term coming from student's jargon by the end of the 18th Century. It is mainly used by and for children who denounce others to parents or teachers. Such a child would then be called Petze.

Die Lisa hat uns schon wieder verpetzt! Die ist so eine doofe Petze.

Some believe that it has its origin in Rotwelsch where petzen, pezetten was used for reporting somebody to the police. Alternatively it may also come from the noun Petze, which was used for a female dog in southern regions of Germany.

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Children do that quite often, especially in the context of accusing each other. Also, amongst kids Petze certainly is considered as rude. I wrote that here on purpose ;) –  Takkat May 14 at 14:01
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Yeah that's true - amongst adults it's awkward and can even be rude (but not always: e.g. "Hast du den Hans gesehen?"). But then you should not say Petze to an adult either. –  Takkat May 14 at 14:17
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Since it was described as "rude" in another comment (and I can't comment myself): For the southern parts of Germany, putting an article with the first name ("Der Franz") is not at all considered rude, but rather standard speech. –  user6295 May 15 at 7:27
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There seems to be a clear distinction between Northern and Southern usage. Being from Austria I use the definite article (as in "der Hand und die Lisa") all the time (and so do the people around me), and would never consider it rude. –  Ingmar May 15 at 7:51
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@Ingmar, same here in Franconia. –  Uli Gerhardt May 15 at 8:50

A nice kids rhyme against snitching:

Petze Petze ging in'n Laden
wollte Zehn Pfund Käse haben,
Käse aber gab es nicht,
Petze Petze ärgert sich.

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