Rhabarber Barbara

Last evening my three flatmates and I were sitting at the dining table, sipping on some tea, and chatting, when the discussion turned to the compounding of German nouns. As it always happens when this particularly touchy topic of compound nouns is brought up, people started competing to come up with the longest words they could think of. We were still trying to remember the classic example of Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän (in English “Danube steamship company captain”), when Robert dealt the killer blow with Rhabarberbarbara.

OK, it is not the longest word per se, but more like an unholy love-child of tongue-twisters (or Zungenbrecher in German) and the German penchant for compounding nouns. It is the German version of “Betty bought a bit of butter…”; but one in which the words ‘Betty’, ‘bit’, ‘butter’, ‘bitter’, ‘batter’, ‘better’ and so on, can be arbitrarily combined together to form longer and longer words! It is the story of a young woman named Barbara, who sells rhubarb cake at a bar, and her three customers who are barbarians, their beards, and the barber for cutting their beards, and the beer – you get the idea. Now that you know what to expect, watch the video below and continue for the text.

This is what was being spoken (source LEO forums):

In einem kleinen Dorf wohnte einst ein Mädchen mit dem Namen Barbara.
Barbara war in der ganzen Gegend für ihren ausgezeichneten Rhabarberkuchen bekannt.
Da jeder so gerne Barbaras Rhabarberkuchen as, nannte man sie „Rhabarberbarbara“.
Rhabarberbarbara merkte bald, dass sie mit ihrem Rhabarberkuchen Geld verdienen könnte.
Daher eröffnete sie eine Bar: Die „Rhabarberbarbarabar“.
Natürlich gab es in der Rhabarberbabarabar bald Stammkunden.
Die Bekanntesten unter ihnen, drei Barbaren, kamen sooft in die Rhabarberbarbarabar um von Rhabarberbarbaras herrlichen Rhabarberkuchen zu essen, dass man sie kurz die „Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren“ nannte.
Die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren hatten wunderschöne dichte Bärte.
Wenn die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren ihren Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart pflegten gingen sie zum Barbier.
Der einzige Barbier der einen Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart bearbeiten konnte, wollte das natürlich betun und nannte sich „Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier“.
Der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier kannte von nun Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren Rhabarberbarbaras herrlichen Rhabarberkuchen und trank dazu immer ein Bier.
Das er liebevoll „Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier“ nannte.
Das Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier konnte man nur an einer ganz bestimmten Bar kaufen.
Die Verkäuferin des Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbieres an der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbar hieß Bärbel.
Nach dem stutzen des Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbarts geht der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier meinst mit den Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren in die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbar zu Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbarbärbel um sie mit zur Rhabarberbarbarabar zunehmen um mit etwas Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier von Rhabarberbarbaras herrlichen Rhabarberkuchen zu essen.

Now compare this with the longest version of “Betty bought a bit of butter…” that I could find on Wikipedia (with some modifications):

Betty Botter bought a bit of butter, but she said, “The butter’s bitter.
If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter, that would make my batter better.”
So she bought a bit of butter, better than her bitter butter,
and she put it in her batter, and the batter was not bitter.
So ’twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.

I think there is no doubt that the score stands at Barbara-1, Betty-0! The funny thing is that one of my colleagues named Barbara, who, I can assure you, bakes very good cakes, had never heard of the “Rhabarberbarbara” :-)

And just in case you are still wondering what the longest German word is, here you have it: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. It roughly translates to “beef labeling regulation and delegation of supervision law”, which is a real law from the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern! Now why one will need a law for delegation of supervision of the regulation of beef labeling is a whole different issue.

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17 Responses to “Rhabarber Barbara”

  1. 1 Bart December 2, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Funny. The rabarber story actually easily translates into Dutch as well…

  2. 2 arnab December 3, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    @bart: there you have it, an international tongue twister :P BTW, I hear even the ‘Bart’ translates very well

  3. 3 Aparna Kar December 3, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    LMAO. One huge incentive for learning Deutsch is to be able to say that in one breath. Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbar :D
    Btw, thanks for teaching me the longest word in German. Bis sp’ater! Tchuss

  4. 4 Erin December 6, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Love it — very funny. :-)

  5. 5 Rhabarbera March 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Ha, this is so FUNNY ;) I will send it some friends :)

  6. 6 Rogo July 28, 2010 at 3:42 am

    The next question is of course:

    “When, inevitably, the Rababerbarbarabarbarbarbartbarbierbierbarbärbel guy becomes so popular that Mattel, the makers of Barbie dolls, want to make a doll of him, what will they name it?”

    “Why, they must name it Rabarberbarbarabarbarbarbabababa…barbie??”

    “No, Ken.”

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