Ossie & Wessie: best avoided by non-native speakers?

sound shift

Senior Member
English - England
At a party recently in England, I asked the young German woman to whom I had just been introduced, "Sind Sie Ossie oder Wessie?"

I thought "Ossie" meant simply "from the East" (the former DDR) and "Wessie", from the West, but instead of complimenting me on my knowledge of German and Germany, she replied, "Oooh, that's very rude!" :eek:

Are "Ossie" and "Wessie" generally regarded as rude, or was the woman's reply idiosyncratic? :confused:

By the way, she was from Goettingen, so I regard her as a "Mittie"! :rolleyes:
 
  • heidita

    Banned
    Germany (German, English, Spanish)
    Mittie is a very nice definiton. jejeje

    Yes, I suppose the definiton of Ossie is considered rude, as it was even used before the fall of the wall. I think. Let's wait for more opinions, as I do not live in Germany.
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Well, I consider this "Ossie" and "Wessie" terminology as simplistic, uneducated and absolutely non-recommended for non-native speakers. That's all the answer you need, probably.

    Anyway, some additional information:
    (1) Please be aware that these terms are no real words, but artificially built along childish deminutives. Further, both might carry pejorative connotations when said by "the other kind" of German.

    (2) "Ossie" specifically and exclusively refers to the former so-called German Democratic Republic ("Eastern Germany") and not directly to geography. Thus, Göttingen is unambigiously West Germany. There is no in-between.

    Kajjo
     

    Ralf

    Senior Member
    German
    I would not necessarily label it as rude. However, you have to be aware that in addition to the geographical origin both terms refer primarily to the (former) affiliation (not sure if this is an appropriate term here) to conflicting political and, more importantly, different social systems with diverging standards. Thus they reflect a somewhat problematic aspect of recent German history and may therefore touch certain sensitivities. Even though these words might impart some sort of mutual disfavour (depending on the context, tone and situation in which they are used), for me they have a more humorous undertone. If I had been in that lady's place I would have definitely taken it this way and wouldn't have found anything rude about it.

    Ralf
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thanks for the replies. It's clear that the terms can give offence to some, so I shall not use them again.

    I know there's no such thing as a "Mittie"; no in-between. It was just my silly humour.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Thanks for the replies. It's clear that the terms can give offence to some, so I shall not use them again.

    I know there's no such thing as a "Mittie"; no in-between. It was just my silly humour.

    Yeah, it is pretty much like using terms like "the Brits" and "the Micks" - foreigners use them rarely; and should do with caution.

    That does not mean that foreigners should not invent new words: I like the word "Mittie" - I am sure there are on whom this term fits, and I would not hesitate to use it.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    If I had been in that lady's place I would have definitely taken it this way and wouldn't have found anything rude about it.
    I guess this reaction is rather Ossie-like. ;)

    I wouldn't consider it rude if someone called me an Ossie, although Ostdeutscher or aus dem Osten Deutschlands sound definitely more ordinary. I would never call a person from the western part of Germany whom I don't know all too well a Wessie, because - I think - the word sounds more pejorative to them than Ossie to us from the East. Nowadays, both terms are used rather humorously with no offense implied or even intended.

    I also wouldn't consider it rude or uneducated if someone used not being from Germany used it. However, it is always better to use "more acceptable" forms like Ostdeutscher or aus dem Osten Deutschlands (the same is possible with West-).

    Another humorous way of asking someone which part of Germany he comes from could include "aus der (heutigen) DDR:"

    A (knowing B well enough): Na, wo kommst du denn her?
    B (usually older than 16): Aus der DDR.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    As a non-native, I would never ask someone if they were an Ossie or a Wessie! I would certainly say something like, "Kommen Sie aus dem Osten oder aus dem Westen?" Or I would just ask "Aus welchem Ort kommen Sie?" and then look it up on a map if I didn't know it. :D
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    As a non-native, I would never ask someone if they were an Ossie or a Wessie! I would certainly say something like, "Kommen Sie aus dem Osten oder aus dem Westen?" Or I would just ask "Aus welchem Ort kommen Sie?" and then look it up on a map if I didn't know it. :D
    As an "outsider" I share your tendency to avoid anything that might even potentially be insulting.

    Questions: right or wrong, are these terms—Ossie/Wessie!—used only for today, or could the refer to the poeple of FORMER East/West Germany?

    These "west/east" terms can get really screwy, since West Berlin was georgraphically in the eastern part of German. I have not examined the former political divisions for other strange features.
     

    sneeka2

    Senior Member
    German
    Questions: right or wrong, are these terms—Ossie/Wessie!—used only for today, or could the refer to the poeple of FORMER East/West Germany?
    That's why Ossie/Wessie are a somewhat touchy subject. Despite all the time that has gone by the notion of the divide are still in these words. At least for me, there's always a hint of poorness and simplicity in the word Ossie, while Wessie somehow implies arrogance and unfriendliness, these being the typical stereotypes of former East and West Germany respectively.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    That's why Ossie/Wessie are a somewhat touchy subject. Despite all the time that has gone by the notion of the divide are still in these words. At least for me, there's always a hint of poorness and simplicity in the word Ossie, while Wessie somehow implies arrogance and unfriendliness, these being the typical stereotypes of former East and West Germany respectively.
    Personally, I only refer to FORMER East/West Germmany (BRD. DDR) when talking about the time before the "fall of the wall". Today I simply say people living in the west/east of Germany, or refer to them by area in Germany.
     

    illuminaut

    Senior Member
    Germany
    While it's true that these terms refer to much more than geography, I think the lady was being overly sensitive, especially considering it came from a foreigner. By the way, regarding Whodunit's comment, I have yet to meet a single person from the West who is offended by the term Wessie, while in my experience Ossies are much more likely to take offence. At least that was the case when I lived in Berlin during the 90s.
     

    heidita

    Banned
    Germany (German, English, Spanish)
    there's always a hint of poorness and simplicity in the word Ossie, while Wessie somehow implies arrogance and unfriendliness, these being the typical stereotypes of former East and West Germany respectively.
    So, this is the typical stereotype of a "Wessie"? So we are all arrogant and unfriendly?
     

    cyanista

    законодательница мод
    NRW
    Belarusian/Russian
    So, this is the typical stereotype of a "Wessie"? So we are all arrogant and unfriendly?
    Heidita, quite frankly, I don't understand your question. No stereotype can ever claim to describe everyone and many of them are plain wrong anyway. I suppose you knew it before, didn't you? Are you being coquettish? ;)
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    As a non-native, I would never ask someone if they were an Ossie or a Wessie! I would certainly say something like, "Kommen Sie aus dem Osten oder aus dem Westen?" Or I would just ask "Aus welchem Ort kommen Sie?" and then look it up on a map if I didn't know it. :D
    I agree with Elroy about never asking using Ossie/Wessie terminology. The typical way to ask would be:

    1) "Kommen Sie aus Ost- oder Westdeutschland?"
    2) "Stammen Sie aus Ost- oder Westdeutschland?"

    Die Frage 2) unterscheidet klarer zwischen aktuellem Wohnort und Herkunft, auch wenn Frage 1) meist im gleichen Sinne (also Herkunft) verstanden wird.

    Die korrekten Ausdrücke für Ossie und Wessie sind Ostdeutscher und Westdeutscher.

    Ich möchte noch einmal betonen, daß die Diskussion über Geographie hier völlig fehl am Platze ist. Es geht ausschließlich um die Gebiete der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (Ostdeutschland) bzw. der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (vor der Wiedervereinigung), also um eine politische Unterscheidung beruhend auf wohldefinierten ehemaligen Staatsgrenzen.

    Kajjo
     

    Gabriele

    Member
    NRW
    Germany/ German
    Hi,

    I think using Ossie/Wessie as a foreigner is not the best idea :)
    It is used with different meanings from the Germans (nice or not so nice).

    But the political correct question to ask where someone comes from is in my opinion:
    Aus welcher Gegend (Deutschlands) kommen Sie ??
    to avoid every hint to the western or eastern part of our republic :)

    To me ist sounds a bit rude too to say: West-/Ostdeutschland because we are one Germany now and we should try to think of Germany as a whole. The terms refer to the former BRD /DDR too.

    But being asked by a foreigner I would never react that rude and consider the question to be an insult.
    G.
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Hi Gabriele,
    well, I do not like political correctness at all -- your suggestion appears to fail to retrieve the answer to the original question. Of course, I agree, it might be best not to ask at all such questions, but that does not make much of a conversation either.
    Kajjo
     

    beclija

    Senior Member
    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    Why can't you just ask for the "Bundesland" and make up the rest in your head using your 101 Geography, if you esteem it to be relevant enough?
     

    Gabriele

    Member
    NRW
    Germany/ German
    Hi Gabriele,
    your suggestion appears to fail to retrieve the answer to the original question. Of course, I agree, it might be best not to ask at all such questions, but that does not make much of a conversation either.
    Kajjo

    Hi,
    I admit, I am lost..........

    I gave my opinion to the Ossie/Wessie terms and a suggestion how to avoid misunderstandings.
    And I think my proposal how to ask would start the intended dialogue. Or not ??

    a bit confused :)
    G.
     

    illuminaut

    Senior Member
    Germany
    But the political correct question to ask where someone comes from is in my opinion:
    Aus welcher Gegend (Deutschlands) kommen Sie ??
    to avoid every hint to the western or eastern part of our republic :)

    To me ist sounds a bit rude too to say: West-/Ostdeutschland because we are one Germany now and we should try to think of Germany as a whole. The terms refer to the former BRD /DDR too.
    I disagree that we somehow need to avoid bringing up a topic that clearly defines a large part of the population. Just because there are stereotypes attached with West- and East Germans doesn't mean we shouldn't talk or ask about it. If you're genuinely interested in where someone is from, use the correct terms "Ostdeutschland/Osten" and "Westdeutschland/Westen". If people start getting offended by that they're probably not worth talking to in the first place. If people feel strongly about being referred to as "Gesamtdeutscher" they can use the opportunity to lecture the person about that. If, on the other hand, you really don't care about the answer and don't want to get drawn into a political/socioeconomical/historical discussion, then I'd agree that you shouldn't ask the question in the first place.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    So, this is the typical stereotype of a "Wessie"? So we are all arrogant and unfriendly?
    There's been a made-up term, which I really like: Besserwessie. I'll let the others explain it, as I don't use the word myself. ;)

    Verstehe ich nicht.
    Wenn ein (rein) Ostdeutscher älter als 16 Jahre ist, ist er normalerweise in der DDR geboren worden. Das klappt natürlich nur im Jahre 2006. Wenn du also fragst: "wo kommst du her?", kann "aus der DDR" nicht falsch sein.
     

    sneeka2

    Senior Member
    German
    I disagree that we somehow need to avoid bringing up a topic that clearly defines a large part of the population. Just because there are stereotypes attached with West- and East Germans doesn't mean we shouldn't talk or ask about it. [...]
    True. But the problem is, that one only asks about East and West, not North, South or "Mittie". So the implication is clearly about political issues, rather than geographical interests. Probably Wessies don't mind being called that as much as an Ossie minds being called an Ossie. That's because Eastern Germany is still not equal with the rest of Germany, especially economically but also politically, and nobody likes to be reminded of that.

    But of course, it always depends on the person you're talking to. If s/he is offended that easily, you probably won't have much fun talking to him/her anyway. ;)
     

    illuminaut

    Senior Member
    Germany
    True. But the problem is, that one only asks about East and West, not North, South or "Mittie". So the implication is clearly about political issues, rather than geographical interests.
    Of course, that's what I was trying to say; it shouldn't be a problem to bring up political or socioeconomic issues, and since this is still clearly something separating the country it is in my opinion totally legitimate to talk about it. We all agreed that one should probably refrain from using the Wessie/Ossie terminology, but avoiding the topic if one is genuinely interested in it isn't the answer.

    Here in America I get asked a lot if I'm from the former West or East, and I've had plenty of good conversations because of it. It is an interesting topic to many people, especially those who haven't experienced it first hand.
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    Whodunit scheint diese Dinge, wie so viele, sehr gut zu verstehen.
    So sollten wir ihn vielleicht fragen: Ist es sprachlich/kulturell/historisch
    moeglich dass es so was wie einen 'Besserossie' gibt?
    Kennt jemand einen?
    Saludos
     

    Lykurg

    Senior Member
    German
    Bonjules, der Sinn deiner Frage ist mir insofern unklar, als es das Wortspiel mit "Besserwisser" nicht wiedergeben kann. Und dieses Stereotyp galt nun einmal für die Bundesbürger, nicht für die DDR-Bürger.

    Genauso wäre "Westalgie" vom Klang her komisch, das klingt eher nach einer Krankheit als nostalgisch.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Whodunit scheint diese Dinge, wie so viele, sehr gut zu verstehen.
    So sollten wir ihn vielleicht fragen: Ist es sprachlich/kulturell/historisch
    moeglich dass es so was wie einen 'Besserossie' gibt?
    Kennt jemand einen?
    Saludos
    Lykurg hat es eigentlich schon beantwortet. Besserwessi ist ein Wortspiel zu "Besserwisser". Die Bedeutung des Wortes kennst du mit Sicherheit, wirst also auch verstehen, was mit Besserwessi gemeint ist. Soweit ich weiß, kennen die meisten Westdeutschen das Wort gar nicht und finden es heute witzig, aber kaum beleidigend.

    Westalgie ist genauso Quatsch, da es erstens keinen Sinn ergibt (die "West-Zeiten" gibt es heute noch in etwa) und zweitens kein Wortspiel beinhaltet. Ostalgie allerdings ist ein Wortspiel und stellt eine Art Krankheit (kann man es so nennen?) dar, die bestimmte haben, wenn sie an ihre alten Zeiten (die so genannten "Ost-Zeiten") denken. Ich persönlich verwende diese Wörter natürlich nie, außer es passt in einen humoristischen Kontext.
     

    Lykurg

    Senior Member
    German
    Ich fand "Besserwessi" immer beleidigend, mag daher auch nicht als "Wessi" bezeichnet werden, weil das (wie auch andere Pauschalisierungen) darin mitschwingt. Als Wortbildung finde ich es an sich aber witzig.

    (Beiseite gesprochen: )
    Den Krankheitsaspekt der Ostalgie würde ich nicht überbewerten wollen - eine Epidemie allerdings, und mit ein paar Jahren Rotlichtbestrahlung vielleicht in Einzelfällen heilbar.^^ Daß es die alten Westzeiten noch gäbe, halte ich dagegen für ein Gerücht. Aber damit verlassen wir die Bahnen des Sprachlichen. ;)
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    Ja,
    da habt ihr freilich schon recht, das urspruengliche Wortspiel
    geht da etwas in die Binsen. Da jedoch der 'Besserwessi'
    mittlerweile so fest etabliert ist und es doch sicher auch auf
    dem Gebiet der frueheren DDR den einen oder anderen gibt
    der sowohl alle Antworten fix und fertig in der Tasche als
    auch immer das letzte Wort hat, denke ich halt....um
    der Gerechtigkeit Willen sollte, muss es einfach einen
    'Besserossie' geben!
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Ich fand "Besserwessi" immer beleidigend, mag daher auch nicht als "Wessi" bezeichnet werden, weil das (wie auch andere Pauschalisierungen) darin mitschwingt.
    Genau so sehe ich das auch!

    Den Krankheitsaspekt der Ostalgie würde ich nicht überbewerten wollen - eine Epidemie allerdings, und mit ein paar Jahren Rotlichtbestrahlung vielleicht in Einzelfällen heilbar.
    Was? Noch mehr ROTLICHT-Bestrahlung? Soweit ich mich mit dieser Krankheit auskenne, wird sie hervorgerufen durch zu viel rot. Heilungschancen gibt es ausschließlich durch liebevolle, psychologische Betreuung der Betroffenen. Erfolgreich ist auch die Verabreichung von Fakten, Wahrheit und Zukunftswillen, deren Einnahme aber häufig von den Erkrankten verweigert wird.

    Kajjo
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Den Krankheitsaspekt der Ostalgie würde ich nicht überbewerten wollen - eine Epidemie allerdings, und mit ein paar Jahren Rotlichtbestrahlung vielleicht in Einzelfällen heilbar.^^ Daß es die alten Westzeiten noch gäbe, halte ich dagegen für ein Gerücht. Aber damit verlassen wir die Bahnen des Sprachlichen. ;)
    Was meintest Du eigentlich mit der Rotlichtbestrahlung? Ich habe erstmal an das Rotlichtmilieu gedacht, ich gebe es zu. :D

    Jana
     

    Lykurg

    Senior Member
    German
    Das ist eine zwiespältige Sache. Unter Rotlicht würde die Krankheit vermutlich zu vollem Ausbruch kommen, bis das Licht ausgeht, und dann möglicherweise geheilt sein. ;)
    Allerdings zeigt der Großversuch eine erhebliche Rückfallgefahr. :(

    Jana: Eine Wärmelampe, etwa für verspannte Muskeln.
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Was meintest Du eigentlich mit der Rotlichtbestrahlung? Ich habe erstmal an das Rotlichtmilieu gedacht, ich gebe es zu.
    Eine Rotlichtlampe ist eine sehr kräftige, heiße, rotes Licht abstrahlende Lampe, die zu medizinischen Zwecken verwendet wird. Durch die Wärme sollen Entzündungen gelindert oder Muskeln entspannt werden. Es ist ein sehr schonendes, wenn auch etwas altmodisches Heilverfahren.

    Es hat in keiner Weise eine anrüchige Bedeutung.

    Kajjo
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    das Problem ist doch, dass viele immer gleich rot sehen, egal, was es ist: zum Beispiel gruen. Nur bei braun haben sie weniger Schwierigkeiten, oder vielleicht schwarz.
    (ps: also Jana, wie konntest Du nur an so was denken!)
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    das Problem ist doch, dass viele immer gleich rot sehen, egal, was es ist: zum Beispiel gruen. Nur bei braun haben sie weniger Schwierigkeiten, oder vielleicht schwarz.
    Ich möchte hier ganz ausdrücklich eine politische Diskussion vermeiden, aber ich finde diesen Kommentar wirklich unfair.

    Deutschland ist zurecht (!) überempfindlich bezüglich rechter Bewegungen und Parolen. Braune Tendenzen werden schon an den Wurzeln von Journalisten, Juristen und allen demokratischen Politikern offen bekämpft. Man denke an die Aufruhr, die die aktuelle Landtagswahl in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ausgelöst hat.

    Dagegen regiert die linksextreme PDS, die 40 Jahre Menschenverachtung und Freiheitsberaubung zu verantworten hat, sogar in mehreren Landtagen. Das institutionelle Deutschland ist auf dem linken Auge blind, nicht auf dem rechten!

    Kajjo
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Gut meine Herren,

    genug damit, sonst vertreibe ich Euch in Cultural Discussions. :)
    (ps: also Jana, wie konntest Du nur an so was denken!)
    Asche aufs Haupt und tongue in cheek. :)

    Jana
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    Ok Jana, agreed.
    Lass mich aber bitte noch eines klarstellen:
    Kajjo, nichts fuer ungut, aber so spezifisch und auf die Gegenwart bezogen habe ich es nicht gemeint. Mehr ein genereller Kommentar im Farbenspektrum unerer Geschichte...Mit der PDS habe ich schon gar nichts im Sinn.
    saludos

    PS: Kommentar fuer die Non - Natives hier: 'Rot sehen' hat im deutschen eigentlich den Sinn von
    'Aufgebracht, wuetend sein' (der Stier in der Arena 'sieht rot'). So habe ich es auch hier verwendet
    obwohl es freilich in dieser Diskussion einen Doppelsinn von dem -politischen- Farbenspiel bezog das Lykurg angefangen hat.
     
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