The song Karate by the German rap group K.I.Z. contains the line:

Pistolenstich und Messerschuss

In this line the second parts of the words are exchanged, since it usually would be “Pistolenschuss und Messerstich”. How is this stylistic device called?

  • Might be a form of chiasmus, but I'm not sure whether that term can properly apply to parts of words rather than whole words. May 28, 2016 at 16:04
  • I am not sure whether this type of question should be considered on-topic or not. Personally, I am leaning towards no. I started a meta-discussion about it.
    – Jan
    May 28, 2016 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


Nach Wikipedia werden Buchstabentausch und Wortsilbentausch zusammen aufgelistet. Das Beispiel, das dort als Erstes aufgelistet wird passt auch sehr gut mit obigen zusammen:

Hauptpreis sind ein Paar kopflose Schnurhörer


Hauptpreis sind ein Paar schnurlose Kopfhörer

Somit wäre obige Figur ein Wortsilbentausch.

According to the German Wikipedia swapping of letters and swapping of syllables are the same rhetorical figure. The first example in the table fits OP's quote perfectly:

Hauptpreis sind ein Paar kopflose Schnurhörer (Prize is a pair of headless wirephones)

instead of

Hauptpreis sind ein Paar schnurlose Kopfhörer (Prize is a pair of wireless headphones)

Because of this, the aforementioned figure should be a syllable swap.

  • The term Wortsilbentausch appears in the Web only in that one Wikipedia list and on pages that are quite clearly reuses of WP content. Is there any reference that this term is not just an invention of some creative WP author?
    – Matthias
    Jun 3, 2016 at 13:59
  • @Matthias Ich habe keine gefunden. Allerdings ist es dir rhetorische Figur, für die man eine Quelle findet (auch wenn es nur Wiki ist) und die das Beispiel beinhaltet.
    – Armin
    Jun 3, 2016 at 14:19
  • 1
    "Wortsilbentausch" finde ich nicht überzeugend, da nicht nur Silben vertauscht werden, sondern komplette Substantive, die Bestandteil eines Kompositums sind. "Tausch" ist korrekt, aber das Ergebnis ist m.E. eher ein Oxymoron, da sich die beiden Bestandteile des jeweils neuen Kompositums widersprechen.
    – tohuwawohu
    Jun 8, 2016 at 13:32
  • @tohuwawohu aber ein Stich widerspricht einer Pistole nicht. Mit einem Bajonett könnte ein Gewehr stechen. Es gibt keinen Grund dass es etwas ähnliches nicht auch für eine Pistole gibt.
    – Armin
    Jun 8, 2016 at 13:35
  • @tohuwawohu außerdem sind -schuss und -stich Silben.
    – Armin
    Jun 8, 2016 at 13:36

I do not know a name for this specific construction, but I see some more general devices in action here:

  • It is a word play (German: Wortspiel).
    More specifically, it is an anagram (Anagramm) - at least formally (see also the Duden's definition), while usually in an anagram you find much more extensive changes of the original word.
    There are other terms that focus on the fact that parts of the original are mutually exchanged, but it does not look like there is a commonly used term for this: Wortsilbentausch as mentioned in Armin's answer lacks a reference and has very few search engine hits, most of them being sites that are apparently reusing Wikipedia content. Buchstabendreher in general is a commonly used word that also covers exchanging single characters, and a large collection of such word plays lists constructions similar to your example like "kopflose Schnurhörer" or "Morgennatz and Ringelspiel" (referring to two German writers that were addicted to word plays) as Buchstabendreher in zwei Wörtern. And you also find other sources that use Wortdreher.
  • It is an oxymoron (German: Oxymoron). The word play helps a lot to increase this effect. While each of the two words alone could be seen as bare nonsense words, their combination sets a context in which they appear as contradictory compounds.
  • And not to forget: there is the fine German verb verballhornen that means distorting a phrase or word - so your example is also a Verballhornung of the original "Pistolenschuss and Messerstich".
  • I don't agree to Paragramm, but Oxymoron is nice. By the way the formal name is: Neologismus. In short: these are new words, a recombination of two words is done. German language is famous for its combination of words. ;-)
    – Thomas
    Jun 2, 2016 at 8:16
  • @Thomas I also considered Neologismus, but according to de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neologismus#Abgrenzung you cannot call each ad-hoc and one-time-use creation a Neologismus. On the other hand: why do you think it's not a Paragramm?
    – Matthias
    Jun 2, 2016 at 12:20
  • I believe from the definition of Paragramm it is really related to exchanging single letters or small parts of a word which changes its meaning and making fun of it. Both is not applicable to these words. Regarding Neologismus I think it is a typical German "Kleinscheißerei" to have additional Okkasionalismen, but even the discussion about it might be "Kleinscheißerei".
    – Thomas
    Jun 3, 2016 at 12:35

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