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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: Why does German use two different words for “joke?”
Both Witz and Scherz can be translated as “joke.” Witz is used in the actual sense of telling a joke and a Scherz can be a prank or an ironic comment.
A good insider tip is to know the phrase War ein Scherz. It roughly translates to, “It was a joke,” and is often added after saying something that could potentially offend someone. It's used to either clarify that you're not being serious or even to retract the statement. So if you hear this, don’t take what the person said to heart!
Let’s do some examples so you can use Witz and Scherz correctly.
The phrase Sehr witzig, means, “Very funny.” it's often used ironically when you don’t find something funny or when you're trying to tease someone.
Another example would be, Du bist heute aber zu Scherzen aufgelegt. This means, “You’re in a silly mood today.” It literally translates to: “You’ve been set up to (crack) jokes today.” The aber meaning “but,” is used for emphasis.
An additional good phrase to know is, Du machst Witze! This means “Are you kidding?” accompanied by a facial expression of disbelief. This might be used when hearing surprising or even shocking news, though nothing too serious, like death or illness, from a friend.
An interesting fact is that there are two colloquial verbs based on Witz and Scherz. The first is witzeln meaning “to quip” and the second is scherzen meaning “to joke.” Both are used when people are being silly and joking around a lot.
If you feel like you’re getting the hang of German humor, you can try this fun phrase, Hast du einen Clown gefrühstückt? This literally means, “Have you eaten a clown for breakfast?” it's an ironic expression that actually means, “Well, aren’t you being funny (or) silly today?”
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”