On the wings of … wait, what?

Sarah and I rented a car this weekend to head up to Hirschau for the Annual Jentry‘s Throwin’ A Party! party. (This is the same party as last year around this time, to which I now refer as The Toenail Party). We rented a car from Sixt, who have conveniently moved to a mere 15-minute walk from our apartment. We showed up, signed off, and checked out the car.

I was poring over the list of documented dings, dents, and scratches when I stumbled upon a word I’d never seen before. Thanks to German being such a fan of compound words, and having acquired a decent vocabulary in most of the last decade, it’s not often (anymore) that I encounter a stumper. But this one threw me:

Kotflügel

We know what Kot means (look it up if you like). We know what Flügel means. We did not know what they mean together.

We decided to ask the native speakers upon our arrival. They busted out laughing when I asked, in English:

Just what the heck is a turdwing?

They knew pretty much what part of the car it is, but there was some discussion about whether best term was “wheel well” or “fender.”

Kot is a clinical term for groß.  Which is gross.

Kot is a clinical term for Groß. Which is gross.

“We never thought of it like that,” was their excuse. “That does seem to be a weird name upon reflection.” As a foreigner assembling concepts with German Lego bricks, I fail to see how any non-native speaker could NOT think of it like that. But after giving it a little more thought, we decided my rather literal interpretation of the term must be the most accurate: a holdover from the days when coaches needed to protect their passengers from the, shall we say, exhaust flying up from the street.

Here’s a much nicer sort of wing to consider.

2 thoughts on “On the wings of … wait, what?”

  1. Mo

    Taking a look at Wikipedia confirms: yes, that’s exactly what it means. (Although, at the time of its invention, “Kot” also meant “dirt” in general.)

    I always assumed there were some etymological reasons that made it end up being called a turd wing…

  2. shoreacres

    Now that I’ve stopped laughing and have had a little time to reflect, it occurs to me that the “mud flaps” covering the rear wheels of our semi trucks would be an even better example of the term. When the truck is moving along, the flaps do protect the car behind from being struck by mud or rocks, and because they’re usually made of heavy rubber (or whatever) they “flutter” just like a bird’s wing.

What's your take on it?