I am translating a Till Eulenspiegel story from German to English, and I came across the following sentence (source link):

"Im nächsten Augenblick lagen beide am Boden und rangen und schlugen und kratzten sich, bis sie schließlich so übereinander wegpurzelten, daß sie, so wütend waren sie, sich im Dunkel überhaupt nicht wiederfanden.

Here's what I was able to understand:

In the next moment both were lying on the ground, wrestling, hitting and scratching each other, until in the end they __________ that, so furious they were, they could not find each other in the darkness anymore.

I looked up the bolded verb (which I assume has the infinitive form 'wegpurzeln') in various online and offline dictionaries, but could not find a proper translation anywhere. I also looked it up on Redensarten-index which was recommended to me for idioms and such, but still nothing.

Any help would be much appreciated! The suggested translation of the entire sentence is obviously not final, as it depends on the missing part, but if you see anything else that is worth commenting on, please do!


wegpurzeln is composed of weg (away) and purzeln

Combined with übereinander this translates to something alike

until they tumbled over each other in such a way and landed apart from each other

where in such a way is the translation for so, in this case.

The reason this is not showing up in a dictionary is a) it's a compound word and b) it's not super common. There are so many possibilities of compound words in German, that it's simply impracticle to list them all. Instead, if encountering one, looking for each individual word will usually give a pretty good idea about the new meaning. But we have more specific questions/answers about that on this site.

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    I would say: apart from each other ... – Olafant Sep 19 '20 at 18:07
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    It is not a super common word. Besides, it is next to impossible to list all compound words in a dictionary. It often helps to split the verb (or word) into suffix and main verb(word) and look for the latter in your dictionary of choice. As seen above, purzeln does appear in dict.cc – infinitezero Sep 19 '20 at 18:34
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    so here means in such a way, i.e. until they tumbled over each other in such a way, that they landed apart from each other. – infinitezero Sep 19 '20 at 20:59
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    Thanks, I was under the impression that the structure of 'so ... dass ...' as 'so much ... that ...' was rather solid. Thank you all for all your help! I was able to finish the story by now. – Don_S Sep 19 '20 at 21:19
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    @Olafant in which region is purzeln a strange word? In Austria, it is quite common and frequently used in spoken language. – rexkogitans Sep 20 '20 at 7:44

This is a very interesting question. The verb "wegpurzeln" is not frequently used.

A google search shows that it is used as a sort of synonym for "vanish", "move away" or "roll away", especially in the context of loosing weight ("Es gibt einige Möglichkeiten und Tipps, mit denen die Pfunde schnell wegpurzeln können").

Other examples are "An unebenen Stellen könnten die Steine wegpurzeln", "aber wenn ich seh, wie meine fische wegpurzeln, wenn sie vorbeischwimmen", "Aber um mich herum sehe ich die halbwegs relevanten Blogs und Magazine in beunruhigend hoher Frequenz wegpurzeln".

In the context of your text it certainly means that they rolled away during their fight in the dark. The phrase "übereinander wegpurzelten" indicates that they moved on the ground, each of them lying alternately top and bottom, but then rolling away so that they could not find each other in the darkness anymore.

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    Fische purzeln wenn sie vorbeischwimmen?? – infinitezero Sep 20 '20 at 11:21
  • @infinitezero Fundstück bei Google: aquaristik-talk.de/technik-und-wasserchemie/… . Der Text ist sicher kein Muster vorbildlichen Deutschs, aber beim Lesen stellt man fest, dass die Fische durch die Einwirkung eines Ausströmers im Aquarium "wegpurzeln". – Paul Frost Sep 20 '20 at 16:37

It seems that you are using Kästers retelling of the "Nap in the beehive". I agree with "tumbeling over each other" as a translation fitting. However, but would, however, suggest "tumbeling about each other" instead. The situation given in the story is quite violent and suggests that they alternately garb each other and roll around on unieven ground and try to throw each other off or down, a violent scuffle. Additional "that, so furious they were, they could not find each other in the darkness anymore." could be translated as "that - as furious as they were". Kästner seems to imply that the intensity of anger clouds their ability to find each other again in the dark. The other reading would be open to the interpretation that they could find each other although they were very angry and wanted to fight.

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