Hohle Zahn = Hohenzollern?
July 3, 2016 7:52 AM   Subscribe

While messing around on Wikipedia, I learned that the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche is nicknamed "der Hohle Zahn", meaning "The Hollow Tooth". I notice this sounds similar to "Hohenzollern", the royal house of Wilhelm I whom the church commemorates and Wilhelm II who had the church built. Is this nickname an intentional pun on Hohenzollern or is that a coincidence?

I did a little Google searching in English and German, but couldn’t come up with anything. My German isn’t good enough to really dig into German-language websites for this.

It seems like a poetic way to use a ruined memorial church for Wilhelm I to call the Hohenzollerns (who no longer rule Germany) 'hollow', but maybe I'm reading into it too much.
posted by Tehhund to Society & Culture (5 answers total)
Not very likely no. It doesn't sound that similar to German ears, is all. Just a few not unrelated sounds but differently organized.
posted by Namlit at 8:13 AM on July 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's rather a typical representation of the grand tradition Berlin street humor, of poking fun of grand things, of seeing things in perspective. A rotten tooth (which is a bit like that church ruin looks like) is so much less lofty than the originally intended remember-destruction-foreveriness.
posted by Namlit at 8:21 AM on July 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Not that it's a real argument, but there is a Hohler Zahn (Huelen Zant) in Luxembourg too, based solely on the fact that it looks like one (which the Gedächtniskirche bellfry does, too). Photo (with gold filling for some cultural event, haha).
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:51 PM on July 3, 2016

Not a likely connection between the two. 'Hohen' = roughly 'high'/ 'hight'. According to Wikipedia, 'Zollern' (previously 'Zolrn', 'Zolrin' etc.) is derived from 'Söller', which also means ... 'height' (but also see this entry on the name, which mentions a 'Zollerberg' as the original seat of the family). Apparently, there are some who believe the Zollerberg was the location of an Old German temple, called „mons solarius“ by the Romans. The counts of Zollern are said to have changed their name to 'von Hohenzollern' essentially to sound more fancy.

If you're really curious, there is a brochure on the etymology of the name.
posted by miorita at 3:40 PM on July 3, 2016

It doesn’t sound that similar when pronounced, I’m not a native speaker but my German is decent enough and I wouldn’t think of a connection there.
I think it’s one of those nicknames like the gherkin in London, there are others for other buildings in Berlin, like the Haus der Kulturen in Tiergarten is nicknamed the pregnant oyster because it does look like that.

Here are a few other such German nicknames for Berlin buildings and oh there it is, just found it in there - the Hohler Zahn is cited as "common nickname for tower ruins, here the ruins of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche". (I assume here means here in Berlin).

So there you go, it is not exclusive to that church and there seems to be no connection to Hohenzollern.
posted by bitteschoen at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

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