In KHM 1812/1857 #19 "Von den Fischer und siine Fru" the fisher uses the following words to summon the fish:

»Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!

Buttje! Buttje in de See!

Mine Fru, de Ilsebill,

Will nich so, as ick wol will.«


  1. What do the words Mandje! Mandje ! mean?
  2. Does each word mean the same thing, or does each word mean something different?
  3. Do the exclamation points have meanings in the 1st line?
  4. Is the fishers first name "Tim" and his last name is "Te" or "The"?
  5. Is there any evidence that the Low German “je" ending was shifted from the Latin “” ending?
  6. Is the analysis correct, or am I way off?


Possibly it means: “Hello here is! Here stand I, Tim Te!

I have seen some translators say that it is a variation of “Männchen,” High German for “little man” or “man-let” (with the diminutive). Others say it is from “mon Dieu” (my God!). These explanations seem rather unlikely.Link to Bolte here.

My theory is the following: The Low German or Pommeranian dialect that the story is written is very similar to the Dutch language. Both are Western Germanic Languages.

Mandje is the Dutch diminuitive of "mand," meaning “basket.” While “basket” seems to be unrelated, it does lead to “Mande.”

Mande is a Danish term derived from "mand" meaning “man.” "Mande" comes from the latin “mandō” meaning *manus (hand, handwriting, power) +‎dō (I give, I offer or render, I yield surrender, concede).

Mander is also French for the Latin mandō and also means to “command, summon, or to inform, to send news of.

The Latin mandō when used as a verb also means: “I order, I command, I put in hand, I confide, I entrust.”

So in this story, the fisherman says “Mandje!, Mandje!” twice. With an exclamation point we should not forget. The first “Mandje!” can then mean: “I summon you!, I command you!” The second “Mandje!” can then mean: “I offer myself!, I confide!” and then the fisherman says who he is - he says his own name: “Tim(pe) Te!

“Mandje! Mandje! Timpe Te!” can mean:

I summon you! I offer myself! [Here I am/ my name is] Timpe Te!” or

I command you! I surrender! [Here I am/ my name is] Timpe Te!

or simply:

I summon you! I offer myself! Timpe Te!

There is probably a more direct way to get to the Latin “mandō” that does not take the detours through Holland and Denmark, but that is how I got there. There is most likely a direct route that goes from Latin “mandō” directly to the Low German “mandje.” It is certainly possible that the Latin “” was shifted to the Low German “je” over the course of time. It makes more sense if it is an invocation to summon the fish rather than a word for “little man.” It also may be a good example of why translating the repetitions the same number of times is important (sometimes if a word is written and repeated 4x in the original, the translation will only write it 3x ignoring the 4th repition). If my theory is correct, each word has a different meaning.

It is said that “Timpe” is the fisherman’s first name. “Te” is his last name. So he is called “Tim Te.” There are still people in Northern Germany whose last name is “Te” or “The.”

  • You write Mandje is the Dutch diminuitive of "mand". That is true, but It is more likely something like "mannetje", the Dutch diminutive of "man" (in some German dialects: "Männeken"). Oct 21, 2018 at 14:08

6 Answers 6


This source - http://www.maerchenlexikon.de/at-lexikon/at555.htm - claims that it is meaning "Männchen" - "small man" and that these verses are a relict of a former dialog, where the fish was calling the man.

  • Yes, Bolte speaks of it in his Anmerkungen VI Pg 143. "In Hessen hörten die Brüder Grimm die Fabel unvollständiger, aber mit einigen Abänderungen als das Märchen vom Männchen Dominē (sonst auch von Hans Dudeldee) und Frauchen Dinderlindē (wohl von Dinderl, Dirne?) durch Frau Wild in Kassel erzählen. [143] Domine klagt über sein Unglück und geht hinaus an den See; da streckt ein Fischchen den Kopf hervor und spricht: ‘Was fehlt dir, Männchen Domine?’ ‘Ach daß ich im Pispott wohn, tut mir so weh.’ ‘So wünsch dir was zu haben!’ ‘Ich will’s nur meiner Frau erst sagen.’ Apr 2, 2017 at 21:56
  • Just not convinced yet of the connection. The Dominē text is a different version. Apr 2, 2017 at 21:58

"Mantje, Mantje, Timpe Te!" = "Männchen, Männchen, Zipfelchen!" in German = "Little Man, Little Man, Little Gnome!"
See "Mantje" or "Mandje" = Friesian German "Little Man"; "Timpe Te" from East Friesian German "Timpe" = "Zipfel", i.e. "Timpetje" = "Zipfelchen", meaning "Little Gnome" (a little man wearing a 'Zipfelmütze' = hoody)

Regarding question 4. = No;
question 5. suffix '-tje' is a diminutive in Friesian German = the ending '-chen' or '-lein' in German = "Little..." in English.


I agree that the more likely explanation is that is was originally a dialog in a different order. Manntje means “little man” and Timpe Te is the fishers name.

It makes all sense if you put it:

  • Fisher: Buttje, Buttje inne See!
  • Fish: Manntje, Manntje, Timpe Te!
  • Fisher: Myne Fru de Ilsebill will nich so, as ik wol will.
  • Fish: Na, wat will se denn?

As a German native I was looking for the meaning as well. Found a long explanation where the short form is: No one knows exactly the meaning. It's not any kind of German. The most common interpretation is that these words are lent from French, translated by the sound of them and the meaning is not exactly fitting into the situation. It's more of a sigh.

O lord, oh lord, have mercy

or in French something like

Mon dieu, mon dieu t'impe tě...

  • 3
    This is interesting, but it would have been better if you would have given a reference to where this interpretation is suggested.
    – Carsten S
    May 18, 2019 at 9:22

I have been investigating this for a while now. I think that the "Mandje! Mandje!" part is indeed a diminutive for 'man', but I see no reason to suppose a reordering or a dialogue. Remember that the flounder says he is an enchanted prince, so the fisherman calls him both 'little man' and 'little flatfish'. Indeed, one of the English versions reads "O man, O man, if man you be / Or flounder, flounder in the sea." Plainly that is not literal, but it is suggestive. In any case, the whole thing is an invocation, and invocations aren't dialogues.

However, I don't see any connection between Zipfel and Timpe(tje): the Low Saxon cognate of Zipf(el) is tipp(el), pretty much as in English (German Tipp 'hint' is a 19C borrowing from English). Pushing Timpe through the Second Consonant Shift would give a German root zimpf-, which does not seem to exist.


As a German whose great grandmother's surname was Timpe and whose family spoke a number of nothern German language variants including Friesian, yes, Timpe does indeed mean Zipfel. As for Mandje/Mantje, my bet is on either basket/net or Männchen. If it's the former, it could mean little net, little net, I pull your tip (with te translating to zieh)... Or maybe te simply means da/dort. Te/The is not a German surname I've ever heard of except for when te means zu, as part of a formerly royal title, especially for originally Dutch names.

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