Let’s be honest, leitwortstil looks like something you order at the deli. “I’d like a pound of the best wurst you have, two pounds of un-holey Swiss cheese, and half a pound of leitwortstil.”


Now, for the sake of fairness, since we have been honest, let’s be dishonest. Or rather, let’s be imaginative and fictional and say you make this order at a word deli. Afterwards, you go home and write a story in which you make the protagonist eat “best wurst” and “un-holey Swiss cheese” meal after meal because that’s what leitwortstil does to you.


When Germans try to say “leading-word style” in English, it comes out sounding like leitwortstil, so we must learn to deal with that. This is a good reminder to English speakers to make sure to be the first ones to say new words; otherwise, we will be stuck with words that are hard to pronounce, like Schadenfreude and Fahrvergnügen. Leitwortstil, which should technically be capitalized since it is a German Noun, is the repetition of certain words or phrases in a story or body of work that the writer uses to develop a motif or theme. In layman’s terms, think of it as the “Are we there yet?” refrain that a child repeats over and over on a cross-country car trip, which helps establish the theme of your family vacation and ultimately your life: madness.


Although I am only a typist, it occurred to me that perhaps I have unwittingly or possibly half-wittingly employed leitwortstil on this blog. This led me to VocabGrabber, a website that allows you to enter a text and sort the words by relevance, occurrence, and familiarity. In addition, words are marked in seven categories: geography, people, social studies, arts and literature, math, science, and the puzzling category called vocabulary. You can imagine how helpful a website like this if you need to waste several hours of your life.

In a desperate search for my leitwortstil, I began copying and pasting my posts into VocabGrabber and made three important discoveries. First, the two words I repeatedly repeat are “are” and “have.” My literary style of typing brings truth and light into the world by explicating and complicating the two basic human needs: existence and possessions. As Descartes might say if he were still alive and we were both yearstricken: we are, therefore we have.


The second important discovery came when I entered the text for my blog about joining the pantheon of the blog gods. Overcome with whimsy, I clicked on the relevance button, which VocabGrabber declares are the words “most significant for the average reader.”  In that post. the most relevant word to you, dear reader, is earwax, a word lodged in your mind and ears in a strikingly relevant way. And right after earwax, I discover that eructation is important to you, followed by narcissist, key word, epitomize, and flatulence.


For research purposes and because I have wasted so much time at VocabGrabber what is another ten minutes, I typed in all of the above paragraphs. You still find earwax the most relevant, followed by holey, eructation, Swiss cheese, explicate, and narcissist. You people surprise me. I had no idea these things meant so much to you. I did notice that you are not having as much trouble with your flatulence today. I’m happy to hear that, or not hear that if you know what I mean, and I’m sure the people around you are too.


My third discovery daunted me. VocabGrabber reveals more about word usage than leitwortstil, so I must continue my quest. And it reveals more about you than you may have wanted me to know. I will try to use this knowledge wisely. Your secrets are safe with me.

42 thoughts on “Leitwortstil

    • You do not need to go to VocabGrabber because you already don’t have time. Not having time is the result of going there, so why go there if you have already achieved the result.

      May I suggest pickles?

  1. millodello

    As a male follower of your posts I can assure you that flatulence in the role of leitmotif will always be rewarded. Hearing it is also always preferred. Sound travels at about 770 mph whereas gale force winds don’t often hit 200. This will reaffirm the value of the DEW line from the fifties.
    Still the actual subject of this post is a winner. I will not be one of those wasting time over at VocabGrabber. Every hour I spend there will be enjoyed fully. Thanks for this one.

  2. This morning, I spent some time studying Dutch language and terms thanks to you. (No, really– thank you!)

    Due to my own uptick of German noun usage recently, I am learning a lot about languages and schools of thought within fundamental linguistics that I had not encountered before now.

    And again this morning, you’ve given me something else to play with for the rest of the day: Leitwortstil! (A word that sounds SO much more on the nose than motif or theme any morning of the week.)

    Yay! I’m learning! I’m learning! And you write so well, and unpack your ideas so thoroughly, I think these new ideas are going to stick. YAAAAY!

      • You write such cool things that I figuratively scurry off to look things up and learn more!

        Honestly, I spent 30 minutes this morning studying Dutch nouns due to you. And then I read this wonderful thing. So many brainy goodies!

        Let’s just say it was a very good morning on account of your ideas and your language usage. 🙂

  3. Too late! You included the link and that’s like telling somebody NOT to think of a pink elephant. Go ahead …. try to NOT think about one!

    I already went there and have emerged bleary-eyed and woozy after a couple of hours. It seems I use words rarely employed by popular writers and VocabGrabber completely ignored my bavarcations They picked out “iron filings” for some incomprehensible reason and the “Dalai Lama”. Although I only mentioned him once so as not to seem like a proselytizer.

    I can see bleak blogging days ahead for me as I sink inexorably and helplessly into the mire of VocabGrabber. I am doomed.

    However at least I know that my leitwortstil includes a word unrecognized by the VocabGrabber … I’m ahead on that one.

    • The awful part is that I knew people would go there. This makes me question WordPress’ policy of letting just anyone have a blog. They should be ashamed of themselves.

      My theory is that the so-called relevance of words is based on Google searches.

  4. Bummer — I am busy all day and must wait until this evening to go check out VocabGrabber. I am anticipating it, but also wary as I am easily addicted to messing around with words. You are my word pusher and I always come back for more. 🙂

  5. Mad Queen Linda

    The Wall Street Journal has an ongoing flirtation with the word schadenfreude. Though it doesn’t use the word like WSJ, I think the New York Times has secret love affair with its meaning.

  6. Sorry, I didn’t hear any of that. I guess my earwax has gotten a bit too dense. I’d have you repeat it, but I’m too dense in other ways to get it anyhow. Thank goodness I can have it all charted out for me as clearly as can be by those wizards at VocabGrabber. 🙂

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