Friday, June 15, 2007

It Was the Kind with a Curled House on Its Back

Anyone following the photos regularly might have noticed that I have a bit of a fascination with slugs and snails. So, I've found it really cool recently that there are snails all over on my walk to class in Mainz, and occasionally (not so cool) slugs.

I walk with a couple of classmates and during discussions about slugs heard them refer to the critters as Schnecke now and again (though generally we are just using English). More recently, discussions turned more to snails since they have been coming out in droves. Before I had called them snails, one of my classmates was describing a story about his son and a snail, in which he referred to it as a slug, but the "kind with a curled house on its back". A snail! Then later in a different discussion another classmate referred to it as "the type with a house".

I started to wonder about the German words for these things because of the reference to snails as slugs with houses. So, I checked it out. The German word for a snail, not a slug, is Schnecke. It seems that it's also used as a way to refer to slugs, though, since I have heard it used for them. The German word for a slug is Nacktschnecke - naked snail!! I like this concept that having a shell is the default, and it's not having it that is special. And to add to the cool language fun (I'm a geek), a snail shell is a Schneckenhaus - a snail house.
German is cool.


  1. I only knew the English word snail for Schnecke and therefore also called slugs snails. It always drives my husband insane if I call two different species by the same name...

  2. Schneckenhaus, with an "n" between the two words.

    But cute, your love of language :-)

    The big snails (with houses) are referred to as "Weinbergschnecke".

  3. Bek: Hehe, ew, snails are cuter than slugs...but maybe it wouldn't be as bad if you called snails slugs :) It would impart more positive feelings toward the slug.

    Martina: Oops! I always have trouble with letters that are inserted into compound words! Are those the brown ones you're referring to as Weinbergschnecke? I saw one yesterday! Its shell is cool, but its body is kinda...not...

  4. Weinbergschnecken can be brown or white, I think. Just type Weinbergschnecke into the google picture search.

    Here's one you should get a kick out of: Posthornschnecke

    It's a water snail whose shell is shaped like a, well, Posthorn ;-)

  5. what i think is interesting about that is that though the language emphasizes "the one without the house" the PEOPLE all say "the one WITH the house."

  6. Sara: Exactly! After that and before we looked it up Damon and I were wondering if the word for snail was something like house-slug or slug-with-house! ;)
    Damon saw a big snail by our terrace yesterday but I was in class and he couldn't find the camera. Blast!

  7. When I type "Posthornschnecke" into babelfish I get out "post office horn snail". The pictures on the web don't remind me of post-offices. What's going on?

  8. Mary, if you google image search just "posthorn" you will see pictures of posthorns - they are really wide at one end and narrow at the other. The Posthornschnecke's shell is kind of like that!

  9. I wish the little guys wouldn't eat up all my garden though! Grrr. Somehow the ones with the shell are much nicer looking.

  10. So maybe you also like Hainschnirkelschnecke - they have beautiful snail shells ;) Wikipedia

  11. Love your collections of cool German words...and I appreciate being reminded sometimes that German is not just something to be studied (as I'm doing this summer) and feared (when it appears in research I need to do)!

  12. Michelle: Yeah, that's the downside :( If only they could be both cute and also eat something mosquitoes! Hmm, I can't see snails catching mosquitoes though.

    Liliana: Those are awesome!!

    Jen: The words are's the creating of sentences that's a problem!! Good luck with your class!


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