Why do Germans need a donkey bridge to remember?

Random German Word of the Day: “Eselsbrücke” – This German word literally means “donkey bridge” and refers to any mnemonic device or phrase that is used to remember facts or information. A current example for something like this would be the English “PEMDAS” (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract), now that Pluto is no longer a planet…

A famous German “Eselsbrücke” is this rhyme:

“Wer nämlich mit h schreibt ist dämlich.” – “Whoever writes the word ‘nämlich’ with an ‘h’ is stupid.”

This saying is meant to help prevent impressionable German children from putting the letter ‘h’ between the ‘ä’ and the ‘m’ in the word ‘nämlich’… however, what you’ve probably noticed and what many Germans haven’t is that there’s a pretty important ‘h’ in the word anyway… An asinine mnemonic.

Which brings us back to the donkey: The word “Eselsbrücke” comes from the fact that donkeys, being stubborn and obstinate would require a bridge to be built in order to be motivated to cross even small streams of water – thus such a bridge would serve the purpose of helping a stupid creature find the most direct way to accomplish a task.


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