Are there funny German books about the etymology of words, like "Word perfect" by Susie Dent for English etymology, or "have you eaten your grandma" by Gyles Brandreth for English grammar?

  • Can you elaborate on the peculiar propreties you are looking for? I'm afraid they are too unknown for a typical German speaker to come up with proposals for counterparts. (I'm sure I never heard or read even the titles.)
    – guidot
    Jul 29, 2023 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


There is "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod" by Sebastian Sick (Kiepenheuer & Witsch). "Funny" is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

An excellent source, although not structured and rather a loose collection of articles than a book, is "Die Sprache" by Karl Kraus (Suhrkamp).


Kluge/Seebold, Pfeifer, or Duden's Herkunfts-, Fremdwörter-, Redensarten- and other Wörterbücher are recommended.

There are hundreds of books on "funny" etymology, because everyone can browse and collect tidbits from more serious publications and add their grane of salut.

I am not aware of one using long running prose to integrate etymologies into something of a narrative. Ideally, it would teach etymology by example in its historic context. It would be a detriment if it is exclusively about German, or English for that matter.

Indeed, the exposition of false friends and false cognates is a common pass-time among language learners and etymologists as such, so any dictionary of Dutch will do you good. See bijvoorbild "zum Beispiel", haha, always cracks me up. Actually though, the origins of both bild (German Bild) and Spiel (Dutch spel) are ultimately unknown.

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