German Lesson: Kontor

Quite a few summers ago, I picked up this little Kontor sign at a flea market and attached it to the office door.

The meaning of it gets questioned by old and young, by Germans and foreigners alike. Kontor is the old German word for office.

From Wikipedia: A kontor was a foreign trading post of the Hanseatic League. In addition to the major kontore in London, Ipswich, Bruges, Bergen, and Novgorod, some ports had a representative merchant and a warehouse. …

* Niederlassung eines Handelsunternehmens im Ausland

* Büro

* Geschäftsraum, Handelshaus


The word Kontor is derived from the Latin verb computare (to calculate).

What does Temps mean?

Geez, I actually found an English word, which isn’t listed in

Leo Dictionary is usually my holy Bible when it comes to words I no longer remember in German, or a technical English term which needs translation into German.

The word not listed in Leo is temps. After I had sent an image of spring flowers sprouting in January to one of my students, she asked me about the meaning of the word temps I had used in my mail. “Because the vortex sucked up all the cold air, we are getting vernal temps. Maybe.”

(Please note the maybe, as I was figuratively speaking)

I was a bit surprised to learn that not even had this colloquial abbreviation listed. Temps stands for temperature, but then is used in plural, such as: “Tomorrow’s temps are supposed to be in the mid-fifties.”

sprouting in mid-winter

sprouting in mid-winter

Speaking of vortex (die Windhose) in German – the literal translation is wind pants. Cute, isn’t it?

Le Whoopie

Strolling through Biarritz (France), we saw this ad for Le Whoopie at this little Thai eatery, due to open at 17:00. When we returned at 17:00, the hours of operation had manually been changed to 17:30.

Bummer. We were too hungry to wait, alas we did not get any Whoopie, but only this photo.

This sweet treat found its way from New York via Paris down to Biarritz. More about it on Le Whoopie pie, c’est quoi? (in French).

Le Whoopie

Just a note on the side: The word restaurant is derived from the Latin word restaurabo, meaning  = I will restore you

From the full quote: Come to me, all of you whose stomachs are in distress, and I will restore you.
Latin translation: Venite ad me omnes qui stomacho laboratis et ego vos restaurabo.

Yes, we got restored, someplace else.

More about on how to make your own Whoopie Pies: Fun Recipes for Filled Cookie Cakes from

The Meaning of Pfingsten

Graham, from AllThingsGerman, sent out the following newsletter and because it deals with listening comprehension I found it worth reposting in the language section.

Quoted from the newsletter:

Pfingsten is the weekend known in English as Whitsun or Pentecost. The Sunday and Monday are bank holidays in the whole of Germany. It falls 50 days after Easter.

Pfingsten celebrates the moment when the Holy Ghost descended to Jesus’ disciples, allowing them to be understood by everyone that they talked to. To the listeners they appeared to be speaking in their native language.

If this were the case, then that would make us language teachers redundant today.

The weekend is often used by families to have a longer weekend away. Some parts of Germany have school holidays that start on this weekend.

In my home state of Bavaria, a two-week Pentecost break is just about to begin. On the other hand, Bavaria is one of the 16 states which starts summer break last (usually in early August).

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

German lesson: Altweibersommer

Occasionally, when I have a good photo on hand to explain a German term, I will post a mini German lesson.

Today’s word is:

Altweibersommer (lit: old women’s summer), or Indian summer.

Origin of the term: The term weiben (used as a verb), in German mythology, stood for tying spiderwebs in old German.

Indian summer in Germany

For the past few days, we have had blue skies, sunny afternoons, cool mornings and evenings, dewy grass, and sparkling spiderwebs.

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