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I know there's an older thread about the world "silly", but I still have questions!

Would someone in German call someone silly in a friendly, playful, teasing way? (like couples or friends would do) — e.g. "you're so silly"

I found "albern" and "Dummerchen". Would you be offended if someone close call you that in a playful way? Also Google translator says that "Dummerchen" means sausage...?

If you wouldn't exactly call someone silly in German and sound cute, is there any "insult" that is cute, innocent and used just for the purpose of teasing?

a busy cat

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    Translate is just being jelly that it can't conceive such a concept. – mathreadler Jul 15 '16 at 9:44
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    As to google translate saying that Dummerchen means sausage, it's just a trick, using some kind of mathematical model to give the illusion that some kind of translation is being made. For that reason, it often gets confused by collocations: the sheer frequency of the English phrase "silly sausage" has thrown the mathematical model off its course! – Wilson Sep 17 '18 at 11:12
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First of all, as a native German I never heard of "Dummerchen" as sausage! I bet that no one would understand it in that way. "Dummerchen" is a minimization of a stupid person and always understood in a friendly way. A person calling you a "Dummerchen" is definitely favorable/benevolent towards you (like friends or family members) and it is not meant offensive. However, if you say "Du bist dumm!" (You are stupid!) this might very well be offensive. This subtle difference between silly and stupid doesn't exist in German.

"Albern" has a little bit different meaning. It means more something like clownish or absurd. For example, you would say "Sei nicht albern!" (Don't be clownish!) if someone is acting in a clownish or ridiculous way that is (maybe) inappropriate in that situation. That also explains the fotos, right? The two persons are fooling around acting "albern".

Maybe the best way to nicely state "You are silly!" would be "Du bist so doof!". If you say that with a smile the recipient will know that you mean it in a nice way.

  • Awesome! Thank you for the thorough explanation. What's your opinion on "verrückt", thought? – Calvin Jul 13 '16 at 9:31
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    There is a german comedian connecting exactly that sentance "Du bist so doof" with as he is calling it: "If she says that, jackpot, you're in !" – Zaibis Jul 13 '16 at 9:37
  • IMO, "Verrückt" is not a proper translation for silly. "Verrückt" means crazy and can also be meant in positive or offensive ways. However, I think that nobody would say "verrückt" in the situations you have in mind. – Ethunxxx Jul 13 '16 at 9:38
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    After taking some more time to think about it: Dummerchen may be considered as being always friendly - but often in the way you're being friendly to a really nice, but completely naive person. It probably is more used in situations when someone acted silly without intension. "verrückt" isn't a translation of the word "silly", but it could be used in the same sort of situations and I would think it is much less risky than calling someone "doof", which is much more like stupid than silly. – Tobi Jul 14 '16 at 6:09
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    It's not wrong, but you really have to say it the right way. I had a friend who used to say "Du bist so doof" in a friendly way and it was absolutely fine. I think it just depends more on the person and the way you say it than "you're so silly". If it's about a couple, then doof should be ok in most cases. – Tobi Jul 14 '16 at 9:17
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Imagining situations with friends and couples in which someone is doing something silly, I think one of the most common words in this context would be "verrückt", like in

Du bist ja verrückt!

I think this is less negative than "albern".

  • While "verrückt" can be appropriate in my entourage at least "Du bist ja verrückt" carries a note of surprise as well. – Tarok Jul 13 '16 at 12:52
  • In my experience, it is quite a strong expression, like saying "you are off your rocker!"; I wouldn't say it to someone older than myself, or in "polite company", but that might just be due to the dialect of German I learned as a child. – bernz Jul 13 '16 at 20:06
  • I don't think you would call an older person or someone in "polite company" to be silly neither. – Tobi Jul 14 '16 at 6:04
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I can't tell you a long story about my reasoning for it, but I would use, if I'm calling the person(noun) and not describing(adjective) the person:

Du Blödi

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    Yes they all sound nice: "Du Verrückter!", "Blödian", "Quatschkopf" – Falco Jul 13 '16 at 12:40
  • Is Blödi used only by women/men? – c.p. Jul 13 '16 at 18:06
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    @c.p.: Well I actually wouldn't use it when I'm with guys. But I would say it to a girl/women, the same way she could say it to me. – Zaibis Jul 13 '16 at 18:10
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Would someone in German call someone silly in a friendly, playful, teasing way? (like couples or friends would do) — e.g. "you're so silly"

Sure!

I found "albern" and "Dummerchen". Would you be offended if someone close call you that in a playful way?

I would be surprised, not offended. Those words are not used in this way. "Albern" is definitely not usable in a funny way, it is purely negative. "Dummerchen" (or "Dummchen") is not particularly much in use, and not that funny either.

Also Google translator says that "Dummerchen" means sausage...?

Now that is silly.

If you wouldn't exactly call someone silly in German and sound cute, is there any "insult" that is cute, innocent and used just for the purpose of teasing?

It's hard. I'm native German, and I always thought "silly" had rather harmless connotations (i.e., usable in that funny way you intend). But if I translate it at, e.g., dict.leo.org, then I get many german translations which are by all means not harmless. Maybe my understanding of the word "silly" is not up to date.

Thinking more about it, I can't really find a strong single candidate that means "silly but harmless / funny / still lovable" or something like that.

Maybe "niedlich", depending on context and intonation. Also "süß" (especially when used male-to-male in a non-sexual context).

  • Thank you! @Zaibis explained that there is a german comedian who say about "Du bist so doof", "If she says that, jackpot, you're in !" — What do you think about that? Would you find it endearing? – Calvin Jul 13 '16 at 14:33
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    @Calvin: Depends on the situation. If you've been fighting before, "Du bist so doof" will definitely not help to reconcile. But when you've been talking on friendly terms and joking with each other, "Du bist so doof" (emphasis on the "so") definitely means "I understand you made a joke, and our our relation is beyond the point where one needs to be careful and diplomatic", but does not neccesarily imply romance. When my best female (platonic) friend and i meet, it's almost certain one of us will use that phrase at some point. – Guntram Blohm supports Monica Jul 13 '16 at 15:51
  • The context is someone bilingual who you jokingly call "silly" sometimes in English – Calvin Jul 13 '16 at 16:32
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    Dass süß oder niedlich dumm impliziert kann ich nicht unterschreiben. – user unknown Jul 13 '16 at 17:32
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If the person is being mischievous, you could call them a "schabernack", which is like "monkey" or "rascal" or "trickster". If they are not acting tricky, though, then it doesn't make so much sense; I mention this because "silly" is often used on someone who is more or less innocent but still doing something dumb, as opposed to intentionally acting silly.

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    Schabernack is something you do, not a person. – Tobi Jul 14 '16 at 6:02
  • "Du treibst Schabernack", works very well for this though. – ic_fl2 Jul 19 '16 at 14:23

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