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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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2  
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
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@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
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@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

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 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 sentence you gave sound odd to me. Maybe they fit in context, but I would use it that way:

Mensch, daran hätte ich nicht gedacht.

Note also Mensch Meier.

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