This sentence appears among the subtitles to a recent Tatort:

Tauchst nach all den Jahren wieder auf und puhlst in der schlimmsten Wunde meines Lebens?

I am unable to find any reference to the word, puhlst/puhlen. Please advise. Is this a typo?

  • 4
    – Carsten S
    Jul 25, 2021 at 15:14
  • "You show up again after all these years and reopen the worst wound of my life?", something along those lines.
    – Gigili
    Jul 26, 2021 at 8:28
  • de: 'puhlst in der schlimmsten Wunde' I would translate 'you stick your finger in my worst wound' ### puhlen is like sticking your finger in your nose to get something out.
    – Bru
    Jul 27, 2021 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


The word is pulen / du pulst. It's a northern German word. There is no good English equivalent, it basically means to fiddle around / tamper with something using your fingers, often taking something off while doing it. It also means to peel off the paring of fruit or to shell a prawn ("Krabben pulen"). "In der Nase pulen" means to pick one's nose.


"In alten Wunden pulen" would be tampering with and potentially opening old wounds, which is used in a figurative sense in the Tatort line.

"Puhlst" is a spelling mistake, and an understandable one. If German spelling was logical, it should probably be "puhlen", but for some reason it stayed "pulen".

  • 1
    With shrimp it could be "shell", with peas it can be "peel" which actually is the same word (I assume). Jul 26, 2021 at 4:54
  • 1
    The "h" would be used to indicate a long vowel, but then if the vowel was short there would be a double "l". So there is some logic in the spelling, just not much consistence ;)
    – Carsten S
    Jul 26, 2021 at 9:49
  • "Krabben pulen" - das erinnert mich an eine Entgleisung Thomas Gottschalks. In deutschlandfunk.de/… nach "Krabben" suchen. Jul 26, 2021 at 9:50
  • Fiddle around, mess with, poke, stir can all work depending on context. For a wound poke would be a possibility.
    – Tonny
    Jul 26, 2021 at 14:37
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica. "Peel" is from Latin and is not cognate with "pulen".
    – fdb
    Jul 29, 2021 at 12:15

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