A couple months ago, a friend and I were addressing the issue of my lack of vocabulary for a person’s private parts — male and female — auf Deutsch. It was inspired by my improper use of the word scheiden and, as all conversations with me are wont to do, spiraled into vulgarity quite quickly.
I taught her that floral bedspreads are also known as cock blockers, which led to me cringing hardcore because I just hate that word. I always think of a rooster, which is possibly the most awful thing to be thinking about when that word’s being bantied around. So she taught me her cringe word, the one that I should know but never use: das Glied. Why the German word for cock is not masculine, I don’t know. Maybe because it also means a link or a chain? (On a side note: the translation for missing link is also missing penis, which puts that King Missile song into rotation in my head and Jesus H Christ, what if the missing link between chimps and humans is actually a penis? Grrrr… ADHD).
Anyway, of course that word got easily stuck into my head because my very first association with it was the English word glide and I kept repeating Gliede glide so there was absolutely no hope of ever forgetting it again, despite my friend’s desperate attempts to get me to shut the hell up.
Fast forward a few weeks to a ridiculous telephone conference I have to do about once a month with a client so that we can decide what, if anything, I can write about for her. And this time, there’s a dude on the telco with us whose English isn’t quite up to par so it’s being done all in German and with no context for me. I may be fluent in German but with zero context and no in-person contact, it is sometimes totally impossible for me to fill in the blanks or puzzle out words I don’t know. Dude is explaining something to me that I know absolutely nothing about and I’m about two steps behind when he throws this into the conversation: “Yeah, it was so big we had to hire out a Gliederzug from Hungary.”
I choked audibly. A Glied-er-zug? As in (in my head), a parade of penises? You had to hire out a parade of penises from Hungary because what was so big?
I did everything I could to maintain a modicum of professionalism as I asked what the hell a Gliederzug was because that image in my mind was just….ugh. Christopher Street Days, maybe? And the response was one of those uncomfortable silences where it was clear they expected me to know what they were talking about. Finally, dude e-mailed me a picture. It was a truck. A Gliederzug is an extra-long mode of transport.
Appropriate, seeing as the German word for sex is traffic (verkehr).