Oont ze knakkers

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This one has been around for awhile, but I post it here today for two reasons:

1. Believe it or not, two weeks ago I actually observed this happen with scalding hot coffee when one of my brothers spilled his entire cup on my other brother in exactly that area.  All the more believe it or not, the next day the same brother spilled another whole cup of scalding hot coffee on his own groins.  I will never forget the look on his face when that happened.  His eyes were as big as saucers.  Fortunately, in both cases the thick pants and shirts they were wearing prevented them from being seriously injured, though they both did experience a great deal of sharp pain.

2. "Knakkers" looks to be playing off of "knackers" meaning "testicles." See, e.g., Green's Dictionary of Slang and Ben Yagoda's blog "Not One Off Britishisms." James Joyce used it in Ulysses: “Eh, Harry, give him a kick in the knackers.”

Selected readings

[Thanks to Ben Zimmer]


  1. Jake Wildstrom said,

    October 15, 2021 @ 4:18 pm

    FWIW, if you asked me what language "nein droppen ze haut kaffe oont ze knakkers" was meant to be spoofing, I'd go with "Dutch" (more specifically Flemish for those "ze"s). "oont" in particular feels much more Dutch than German.

  2. Ellen K. said,

    October 15, 2021 @ 4:38 pm

    The 3rd looks like a criss-cross between German (or pseudo-German) and eye dialect of English with a French accent (or a fake French accent).

  3. Michael said,

    October 15, 2021 @ 4:53 pm

    At first glance, I thought "Dutch" also – but I almost wonder to what degree this is the phenomenon from "Murders in the Rue Morgue" of each person assigning gibberish to an unfamiliar language? (I speak German, and it's obviously not that).

  4. John Swindle said,

    October 15, 2021 @ 5:16 pm

    I thought it was fake German when I saw "nein droppen," but Google Translate comes to the rescue as usual. It's Luxembourgish and means "NO DROPS SHOULD COFFEE UNTIL ITS CRACKERS." If it were lowercase it would mean "no drop they skin coffee oont they crackers," and if it were in sentence case (initial capital) and ended in an exclamation mark it would mean "No dropping them today coffee oont they crackers!"

  5. Jens B Fiederer said,

    October 15, 2021 @ 6:42 pm

    Definitely not German!

    I thought it might have been Dutch myself…Dutch+French would have sort of suggested Belgium.

  6. Statistically speaking... said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 12:50 am

    Well, Google Translate has one of the best automated language detection systems in the world, so… "Nein droppen ze haut kaffe oont ze knakkers." is detected as Luxembourgish (but it isn't, really; the translation "fails" for some of the words). To be honest, I was not even aware that there is such a language.

  7. Pau Amma said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 1:27 am

    Forcing the "French" to make sense and translating it back into English gives me "Wil not be able into the aire of oooh boy".

    "Pourez" is the 2nd person plural future of "pouvoir" (be able to) with a missing "r", hence "will -(not) be able" with a single "l". For "area", I used the French for it, "aire" (which is actually for the wrong meaning – it means "measurement of area", not "region"). The French phonetic equivalent of "oolala", "ouh la la", is a nonspecific mild intensifier, so "oooh boy" sort of fits.

  8. maidhc said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 2:00 am

    Is it the same language as



  9. Aristotle Pagaltzis said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 3:23 am

    Yeah, using “Oont ze knackers” for the article title had me primed to expect Dutch, so the mention of German in the caption confused me, until I stumbled over “Nein droppen” and “haut”, which made it clear that this is neither.

    Bummer, since the French is actual French (largely anyway).

    (Or is it actually Luxembourgish?)

  10. David Marjanović said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 3:28 am

    the French is actual French (largely anyway)


    (Or is it actually Luxembourgish?)

    Not at all. Someone was having fun, as the rest of this thread is saying.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 5:45 am


    That reminds me of the "German" signs put up (by American soldiers?) in West Berlin after WWII. Is that what you intended?

  12. Pau Amma said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 6:29 am

    @Aristotle Pagaltzis

    The function words are French, and are in the order a grammatical sentence would require them. The rest really is not. "pourez" is an attempt to conjugate English "pour" as if it were a French verb (indicative present, 2nd person plural) but "pour" itself in French is a function word roughly meaning "for"or "in order to", and the result "pourez" looks very close to "pourrez", which is the 2nd person plural future of "pouvoir" ("be able to"). "Area" is untranslated English, and likewise "oolala" (as an onomatopea). For an English approximation of the flavor, see my earlier comment https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=52308#comment-1588981.

  13. Pau Amma said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 6:44 am

    @Victor Mair

    I'm almost old enough and have almost been active long enough in computers to remember that sign being actually in use. See https://de.zxc.wiki/wiki/Blinkenlights_(Jargon) or (better if you can stand the bad Unicode spaces) http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/B/blinkenlights.html. Both mention its likely origin in WW2-era signs in mock German.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 8:10 am

    Yes, I too have seen the "Blinkenlights" text affixed to a a University of London computer-room door (which college is now forgotten). A long time ago, somewhere in the mid-1970's.

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 8:13 am

    As to http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/B/blinkenlights.html, the "bad Unicode spaces" can be viewed as real spaces by "View / Text Encoding / Western", at least in my browser (Seamonkey).

  16. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 8:15 am

    Turns out that "oont" (which I agree looks Dutch just visually) is an English word, although certainly not in my own lexicon. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/oont

  17. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 8:18 am

    And here's an oont-themed poem by the 1907 Nobel Laureate in LIterature. https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/oonts.html

  18. Philip Anderson said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 4:29 pm

    I’d learnt the Anglo-Indian ’camel’’ meaning of oont before I met it as an English dialect word for a mole (also ‘want’). So when I heard a countryman explaining, as if it were obvious, that an oonty-tump was a tump made by an oont, my mind boggled.

  19. Jens B Fiederer said,

    October 16, 2021 @ 7:43 pm

    Apparently, somebody has taken credit:

    Here is the whole story from Moi…the owner of Granville's Coffee in Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada. Many years ago before stuff went viral on the internet my brother and I out of the blue came up with the Avoid Pouring on Crotch Area. We laughed and since we have a lot of crazy stuff going on in our coffee shop it had to go on the Java Jacket. Then at the printers the designer suggested a French version since Canada has two official languages and again out of the blue from my high-school French came the "Franglish"…then of course since I speak absolutely no German except maybe Nein the German version jumped into my head. It was just a local joke that has gone around the world quite a few times from postings from visitors. There you go…that's the whole story.

    ( https://linguistlaura.blogspot.com/2016/01/ne-translatez-pas-les-languages.html )

  20. John Swindle said,

    October 17, 2021 @ 11:55 pm

    It's wonderful to have the whole story! In the meantime I suddenly realized where the "oont" came from. Say it in English and it's a common German word.

  21. justrecently said,

    October 18, 2021 @ 10:39 am

    "… that's the whole story."
    Not true. It happens to be Afrikaans.

  22. John Swindle said,

    October 18, 2021 @ 11:05 pm

    @justrecently: And what do you think it means in Afrikaans?

  23. R. Fenwick said,

    October 18, 2021 @ 11:23 pm

    @Victor Mair: That reminds me of the "German" signs put up (by American soldiers?) in West Berlin after WWII.

    And that in turn makes me think of the wartime German joke, reproduced here with caution: Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeier? Ja, Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!

  24. justrecently said,

    October 19, 2021 @ 7:57 pm

    "@justrecently: And what do you think it means in Afrikaans?"

    No idea. I don't speak Afrikaans.
    But it could be "don't drop the highland coffee on the knackers".
    Makes a lot of sense.

  25. Terpomo said,

    October 21, 2021 @ 12:12 pm

    "On his own groins", plural? I've never heard "groins" used as a pluralia tantum, but I have heard "loins" used that way, could this be interference from that?

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