And we’re back in a hail of floors

Hello Again! The Earthquake Words hiatus has ended and while I will start back with something on German, there may be some posts on Polish in the offing.

As some of you know, there are different ways of labeling the floors of a building or house in different parts of the world. When I first moved the UK, for instance, I needed to learn that what in the US was referred to as the “1st floor” was the “ground floor” in the UK and thus what was the “2nd floor” in the US became the “1st floor.” In Germany, it is also typical to call the 1st level the “ground floor” or das Erdgeschoss (abbreviated as EG and E or indicated numerically by 0). What is a bit more confusing for me is what happens next. The upper floors are designated das Obergeschoss (abbreviated OG) and mostly have an associated number, OG.1 would be the first floor above the ground floor. There can also be das Dachgeschoss which is either the “top floor” or the “attic” (note that I’m likely not the only person thrown off by this as according to, the following words can all mean “attic” – der Dachboden, die Mansarde, das Dachgeschoss,adie Attika, der Speicher, die Dachkammer, der Estrich (Switzerland and Austria), das Dachstock, der Überbau, der Dachraum and der Spitzboden). Moreover, when I’ve been looking at ads for apartments, there can be also a “penthouse” floor labeled die Dachterrassenwohnung (or perhaps das Penthaus). When you go below ground, you enter the realm of das Untergeschoss (abbreviated U, U1 or -1). Again, these can be numbered if there is more than one. There is also a word to designate what in English we would call the “cellar” – der Keller – which I must admit often makes me think of der Kellner – the waiter – going down to change the kegs or to get something from the deep freeze!

There are also several other floor naming systems, two that are commonly encountered are das Stock (plus the older term which you will still see das Stockwerk) and die Etage. For example, when I registered my new address, I forgot to include the floor and was asked Welches Stock? to which I replied Erste – 1st  (or second in the US!). In this system the “ground floor” is still das Erdgeschoss, however the “attic” or “top floor” may become der Dachstock. In the Etage system the “ground floor” can also be das Parterre or 1. Etage. The “attic” can be der Dachboden or die Mansarde. The underground level in the Etage system can be der Souterrain or das Tiefparterre (the translation for the English euphemism “garden flat” could use these words or the more straightforward die Kellerwohnung). You can also have das Hochparterre which appears to be a level half way between the ground floor and the 1st floor (which might also be das Mezzanin, although this can apply to any in-between floor not just the first one above ground level)

Now, if isn’t enough to make your head spin, it is also the case that das Geschoss is ein Teekesselchen or homonym. Das Geschoss can also mean “missile,” “bullet,” or “projectile” and like in English there is a direct parallel for a “hail of bullets” – Hagel von Geschossen. I think I can feel them zinging around in my upper story just now, let’s hope the target is not a bit of hard-won German vocabulary or I could end up with roof damage (einen Dachschaden haben – “to have a screw loose”)!

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