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I met a long-time couple recently, and I frequently heard the wife calling her husband Mensch.

As an example, at one point she asked

Was ist das, Mensch?

and at another

Ach, Du Mensch!

It was said in an exasperated, yet still clearly affectionate, manner.

(I’d seen it translated in other contexts — e.g., in a libretto for Alban Berg’s Wozzeck — as an insult; hence my confusion as to what the word means.)

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4  
Please take a look at leo - the translations with exclamation mark (Mensch! = Blimey, Gee, Gosh...) seems to be the translations you look for. – knut Feb 12 '12 at 23:01
3  
@knut: Not really—the "Mensch" didn't really seem to have that sense. It was used too often during the conversation, and it was always being addressed specifically to the husband. – aeismail Feb 13 '12 at 8:17
3  
@aeismail: I am pretty sure, that she didn't name her husband "Mensch". I guess it's more like a tic to use it that often. – Feroc Feb 14 '12 at 15:31
    
Shouldn't it be "muasi" instead? Or maybe it was her husband's name which sounded like "mensch". – user508 Feb 15 '12 at 13:02
up vote 19 down vote accepted

I never heard it that way and I can hardly imagine that this is just regional.

Mensch is used as interjection, especially when you're surprised about something.

It means gosh, gee, ... LEO

Alternatively, you can say Menschenskind(er). LEO AGAIN

Both sentences you gave sound odd to me. Maybe they fit in context, but I would rather use Mensch like this:

Mensch, daran hätte ich nicht gedacht.

Note also Mensch Meier.

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What about dude? – user6191 Jul 28 '14 at 17:22
    
@Carlster Tell me. I don't know what you mean. – Em1 Jul 28 '14 at 17:36
1  
Could be a tranlation for "Mensch" for some situations. – user6191 Jul 28 '14 at 18:03
    
@Carlster Occasionally, yes. But I don't think it's the proper definition. – Em1 Jul 28 '14 at 20:26
1  
That's why I said "for some situations". – user6191 Jul 28 '14 at 20:38

My German father used to use it with me regularly. Saying something like "you left the milk out again, mensh". I never really understood but, gosh and gee, ring true. There was definitely an air of affection to it. He was from Berlin and born in the 1920s if that helps.

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I would say, that this is just a personal habit of your friend, it's neither used in regular German, nor did I ever heard it colloquially.

But I guess the best way to find out is asking her...

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1  
Might be a regional thing, it is quite commonly used in the Southern parts of Germany. – Michael Schumacher Mar 5 at 11:26
    
it is used quite often all over the republic... – user22338 Jun 30 at 9:36

Indeed there is an expression of affection and surprise in it. It is used quite often as in "Pass doch auf, Mensch!", "Mensch, du hast Recht!" or "Ach, Mensch!". I would rate it as commonly used but colloquial.

There is also "Mensch, Meier!" which is used to express astonishment (Meier is a very common name in Germany)

Duden describes the usage of "Mensch" in aforementioned context as:

als burschikose Anrede, oft auch ohne persönlichen Bezug in Ausrufen des Staunens, Erschreckens, der Bewunderung (salopp)

further examples listed in Duden:

Mensch, da hast du aber Glück gehabt!

Mensch ärgere dich nicht! (ein Gesellschaftsspiel)

Mensch Meier! (salopp: Ausruf des Erstaunens)

http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Mensch_Lebewesen_Individuum#Bedeutungd

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