A lot of German verbs begin with the letters “ver.” Verbessen means to improve. Versüßen means to sweeten. Verabreden means to arrange (a meeting).
The thing about all of these verbs (and most German verbs that begin with ver), is that when you take the “ver” away, you are still left with a German word. Besser means better. Süß means sweet. Abrede means understanding or agreement.
So, when confronted with a German verb that began with “ver” recently, I used this base to try to understand the meaning.
The instance occurred when Marco yelled at me, “Ich werde dich gleich vermöbeln!” For anyone that understands German, this probably makes it sound like Marco is an abusive boyfriend, but I assure you it was said in a joking manner. Anyways, I didn’t understand the correct meaning.
When Marco said, “Ich werde dich gleich vermöbeln!” I heard, “I am going to turn you into a piece of furniture!“
So, I laughed and asked, “Like what? A table?”
“What?” Marco said, quite confused at my response. But after a moment he caught on to my logic and just started laughing.
“I don’t think you know what vermöbeln means,” he finally replied.
Turns out, vermöbeln actually means “to beat up” (most online translators actually give “lambast” or “thrash” as the meaning of vermöbeln, but I think beat up is a better translation for how Marco was using it, and who says “lambast” anyways?).
But as I said, I looked at the root of the word to try to figure out its meaning. When you drop the “ver” (and the “n” at the end), you are left with Möbel, which means furniture. So, I figured that vermöbeln would mean to make furniture. That’s logical, right?
And now, as always when I make a Mistranslation Monday post, Marco and I continue to use this word as I had originally understood.
“Courtney, ich könnte dich gleich vermöbeln“
“Courtney, I could beat you up right now.”
“Aber ich bin ein Mensch! Ich will keinen Tisch sein!“
“But I am a person! I don’t want to be a table!”