I've come across this:

Ein deutsches Sprichwort sagt: Der Mensch ist, was er isst. Wenn das stimmt, haben wir es in Deutschland mit ziemlich multiplen Persönlichkeiten zu tun. Noch nie gab es so viele und so unterschiedliche Ernährungsweisen und vor allem: Selten hatten sie so viel Moral, Politik und Gesundheitsbewusstsein im Gepäck.


I understand the word as it is, but in this specific context, I am not sure whether the author implies that there are a lot of different personalities or that in each German there are multiple personalities (as in "multiple Persönlichkeitsstörung").

  • 1
    Your quote does use the term mutiple in way subject to discussion; I would consider it as wrong, since it does not match the basic meaning mehrfach. Unterschiedlich, bunt, vielgestaltig seem closer to the desired meaning.
    – guidot
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 16:39
  • 2
    The clinical term in German was multiple Persönlichkeit, but this, and the corresponding English term, are no longer used medically, and Dissoziative Identitätsstörung (="Dissociative identity disorder") is used instead. On course once these terms find their way into popular culture it's hard to get rid of them, no matter how dated or misleading they are.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 18:02

3 Answers 3


The quote actually uses "multiple Persönlichkeit" as in "split personality". Of course, it's not meant as a clinical diagnosis, but more as a figure of speech. The idea is roughly, if "you are what you eat" is true, then Germans have quite the split personality, because there never were so many and so diverging nutritional philosphies as there are today.


If you take it litterally, it means "multiple personalities". That is, some persons have split identities. In my opinion the author did not mean that; he chose an inadequate word. As you say, there are a lot of different personalities, but these are not split into different sub-identities. At least I cannot imagine that somebody is both a vegetarian and a meat eater.


multipel simply means vielfältig - diverse. The sentence means

...wir haben es in Deutschland mit ziemlich vielfältigen Persönlichkeiten zu tun.

This does explicitely not say that every individual suffers from personality disorder, but simply that personalities are manifold in Germany. The wording might be a bit unhelpful and irritating, because of the standing expression "multiple Persönlichkeiten" that used to denote personality disorder, but in one single person. We're talking of lots of different persons, however.

Following the logic of the sentence, an individual might be having personality disorder in case he followed more than one personal feeding habit - but that's highly unlikely, because by definition your personal feeding habit is your feeding habit - you can only have one of them.

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