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“You’re a silly goose,” someone in the back of the room chimed in when another student answered a question I had asked.

“Hey, silly goose: that’s what I used to call my son when he was young,” I said.

They looked at me. I stood there for a second, weighing whether or not I could afford the diversion from the algebra. I decided I could. (It was Friday, after all.)

“You know what else I used to call him?”

They dwell on every word about my family and my life, as if they’re gathering rare evidence that, yes teachers are human beings, after all.

Lausbub,” I said in a good German accent. “You are a lausbub!” 

One of the boys in the back said it out loud: “Laus boop!”

So I proceeded to explain how it was that I came by that expression, how my mother used to use it on us, and how she in turn picked it up when she was studying in Germany.


I explained how she was an exchange student, and in her family the parents would call the young children lausbubs when they were being rascals. And then I taught my algebra students a bit of German.

“Here’s how you say it,” I said. I explained that German has a formal and an informal “you” just like Spanish, and that you use the informal with children so that was what we were going to do.

“Repeat after me… You: Du…

And they repeated it.

“You are: Du bist…

And they repeated it.

“You are a lausbub! Du bist ein Lausbub! 

They loved it, and the boy in the back did it with a darned good German accent, too.