Help me unmangle a German word/phrase
February 28, 2007 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a German word or phrase that: 1) means understood, agreed, got it, capisce, message received, or something along those lines; and 2) can be somewhat easily mangled into sounding like "gooshday".

When I was a kid, we used the word as a kind of got it?/got it phrase. For example, my mom would say, "Be good for the babysitter. Gooshday?" and we'd respond, "Gooshday".

We apparently picked this up from our German-speaking grandmother and mangled it into an entirely new word, but she's long gone and nobody remembers what the original phrase was. My guess is that it involves the word gutes, but beyond that I'm stumped.

Any ideas?
posted by stefanie to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
verstehen? (to understand)
posted by phrontist at 5:08 PM on February 28, 2007


my mom would say "Versteh?" for that, from verstehen.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:09 PM on February 28, 2007


I wonder if it's Yiddish?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:20 PM on February 28, 2007


I think it's gotta be versteh. I'm guessing you don't speak German, but the v sounds like an f and the st in this case sounds like scht; the end result is something that sounds like a word that, in English, might be written fairshtay.
posted by stopgap at 5:26 PM on February 28, 2007


You guys rock. Bonus points to stopgap for breaking it down for me because yeah, I don't speak German, and had a completely wrong pronunciation of versteh in my head.
posted by stefanie at 5:42 PM on February 28, 2007


Pronounciation? Apparently I don't speak English, either.
posted by stefanie at 5:44 PM on February 28, 2007


I believe that the German phrase was "Gut so." It could be a question, "Gut so?" ("Is that all right?/Is that OK?") or a statement, "Gut so." ("That's fine./That'll do./etc.")

Various regional accents could make the "so" sound more like "suh" or "seh." Germany is full of dialects. In Austria or Southern Germany, the "suh" or "seh" pronunciation would be very common.

I hope this helps!

Translation from an online dictionary I've used:

Gut so!
- Good!

Gut [n,sg] so, Kleine!
- You go, girl. (colloquial)

posted by laskagirl at 5:47 PM on February 28, 2007


We say "versteh" to Kid Lucinda in much the same way your mom did to you, stefanie.
posted by Lucinda at 6:09 PM on February 28, 2007


Funny thing is, this sounds like a lot like the London slang "cushdy" which has exactly the same meaning.
posted by wackybrit at 7:17 PM on February 28, 2007


Sounds to me like it would be "Gesteh?". The meaning would be similar to "Versteh?", and the sound would be just as you described.
posted by not me at 8:18 PM on February 28, 2007


Good point wackybrit. According to the OED, cushty comes from Romani (in Britain and Scandinavia) kushto, kushti 'good'.

So I guess there is some slight possibility that grandma was using a German version of the Romani word.
posted by nomis at 8:21 PM on February 28, 2007


"Versteh" makes the most sense to me, altough it sounds a little oldfashioned. (I am a native speaker.)

Nowdays one would use "Verstanden? - Verstanden." which is short for "Hast Du verstanden? - Ich habe verstanden." It is the present perfect form of the verb "verstehen" instead of the imperative "Versteh!"

not me, "Gesteh" doesn't make any sense in this context because it means "confess".
posted by amf at 6:26 AM on March 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


wackybrick/nomis makes the most sense to me, since "versteh" doesn't work (grammatically) as both question and response.

I disagree with amf (somewhat) - I'm another native speaker and I don't think I've ever seen or heard an imperative of "verstehen", at least not as a stand alone. (You also wouldn't normally say "Hast Du verstanden" or "Ich habe verstanden" but rather "verstehst Du" and "Ich verstehe" or possibly "Hast Du [objekt] verstanden?" - but that's beside the point)

My guess, based on no evidence whatsoever, is that it's either the British/Romani slang (and from personal experience, immigrants tend to pick up non-native/non-local slang), or it's the end-result of incomplete oral transmission that by now has so little in common with the original that identifying it is impossible - resulting in a Stefanie's family private language, which is pretty cool

on preview: agh, my font sizes got eaten
posted by yggdrasil at 7:16 AM on March 1, 2007


Hmm. I was thinking that gestehen could also mean to acknowledge--something like "Do you acknowledge [that you heard what I just said]?". I still think the sound seems right, but maybe the meaning is too much of a stretch.
posted by not me at 8:52 AM on March 1, 2007


not me, "gestehen" can mean "admit," "avow," or "confess." (and a couple of slang terms, obviously). All of which are pretty much a variatian on the theme of "to confess," with a much narrower meaning than "acknowledge."
posted by yggdrasil at 1:37 PM on March 1, 2007


I did a bit more research based on the Romani language suggestion. It turns out that there was a large Roma population in Ohio not far from where my grandmother lived, and my father remembered a group of them living in or near his town when he was a kid.

Given that, it looks highly probable that the word my grandmother gave us was, in fact, kushti.

Special thanks to wackybrit and nomis for pointing me in the right direction.
posted by stefanie at 10:41 PM on March 1, 2007


One significant data point (that I should have mentioned in the first place) is that we emphasized the first syllable, so the word was gooshday instead of gooshday, so our pronunciation was much closer to kushti than to versteh.
posted by stefanie at 10:54 PM on March 1, 2007


One significant data point (that I should have mentioned in the first place) is that we emphasized the first syllable, so the word was gooshday instead of gooshday, so our pronunciation was much closer to kushti than to versteh.

Ah, it's a good thing you mentioned that, because until then my reaction was that it was much more likely to be the relatively common versteh? rather than the pretty much unknown kushti.
posted by languagehat at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2007


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