Tag Archives: hairsplitting

Compound, Thy Name is Mud

Yesterday morning at Dialog in Deutsch we were presented with the word die Haarspalterei and asked to take a guess at what it might mean. My guess was that it might mean “split ends,” as spalten is “to split” (as in wood) and das Haar is “hair.” And, indeed, one way to say “split ends” is die gespaltene Haarspitzen – “the split hair tips” – and the two other options – der Haarspliss and der Spliss – rely on a different verb for “split,” spleißen which has spliss as the third person singular (and sounds a bit like the English word “splice” making it a false friend as “splicing” involves joining things together). I also had a moment where I wondered if it might indicate a place where you could have your hair worked on as there are several shop names that end in -ei (e.g., die Bäckerei and die Metzgerei). However -ei is simply one way to form a noun from another noun; canoo.net gives the example of forming a new word from das Ferkel – “piglet” – plus -ei which doesn’t mean a shop where piglets can be purchased but rather die Ferkelei means “mess” or a “dirty/disgusting/filthy thing to do.”

We also discussed a few other ways to get across the concept of “hairsplitting” including the words that could be applied to people:

der Haarspalter – hair-splitter
der Erbsenzähler – nit-picker (or “bean counter,” from the more literal reading “pea counter”)
der Federfuchser – petty-minded pedant (literally, I think this is “feather annoyer/nettler”)

Finally, there is the somewhat more neutral adjective penibel – “persnickety,” “painstaking,” “fussy” or “fastidious.”

I look forward to having fun to making a fine mess by debating the difference between nit-picking and hair-splitting!

Tagged , , , ,
Ray's Musings

Mostly Music Mixed With Miscellaneous Mayhem

virtuelles Migrationsmuseum

DOMiDs Blog zum Virtuellen Migrationsmuseum

Hamburg für Anfänger

Leben und (ver)lieben in Hamburg

Deutsch lernen mit Deutschlernerblog

Deutsch lernen - Hörverstehen, Leseverstehen, Wortschatz, Grammatik, Übungen, Prüfungen, Schreiben, Quiz, Musik, Videos, Bilder

a free state of mind

Thoughts from the Journey...

The Diversity Dividend

Doing Diversity Differently


Smart language learning

Leading with Trust

Leadership begins with trust.

Akademie für geile Texte

Lasst mich schreiben. Dann wird alles gut.

Idol Musings

Ray's ruminations, rants and reflections on his American Idol addiction

The Elementalist Epoch

Stories and Poems from the mind of Tristan Nagler