wagon vocabulary

wägler /way-gler/ noun a. A person who lives in a bauwagen. Literal translation: “wagoner.”

steinhäusler /sty-n-hoy-sler/ noun a. A person who lives in a stone house. Literal translation: “stone houser.” The detail of stone is included due to the fact that most houses in Europe are built of stone. In America, for example, the term Backsteinhäusler (“brick houser”) or Holzhäusler (“wooden houser”) might better apply.

It is perhaps also important for the burgeoning German student to note that the only people I have ever heard use either term are people who live in bauwaegen.


A night in a “stone house” is, admittedly, a luxury. Especially on the nights when there is a party scheduled in the venue at the front of our property that is bound to bump and thump (or in the case of electro, twink and twonk and beep?) late into the night. As a person who values sleep above just about everything else, and with a Beard planning to work the following day, we fled the premises and spent the night at some friends’ empty apartment in the city across the river.

Staying in apartments and houses is a mixed bag. There are the luxuries: hot showers and baths, walks to the bathroom that don’t require going outside, large indoor spaces that can fit quite a few people, heating systems turned on and off by a dial, running water in the kitchen, and reliable internet connections. The main downside is that I always wake up feeling like I have the Sahara desert in my mouth.

On paper, the luxuries outweigh the downsides. Then again, most of the downsides don’t really weigh in on a one-night visit. The cost of rent, the environmental absurdity of peeing into a bowl of water, the fact that you can spend hours (days! weeks!) without ever setting a single foot outside, and the strangeness of living in a building full of strangers. I can’t say I can imagine ever renting again.

Sometimes, however, I can imagine a house. Nothing big, and certainly nothing with electricity or running water, but a pretty little shed somewhere in the woods with a wood stove and a nearby stream and a composting outhouse across the meadow. When I let my imagination run wild, I imagine that someday I will find a run down old summer camp property for sale for a song, filled with strange tiny buildings that will fill with good people.

I fell in love with this shack while we were in America. As far as permanent structures go, this would have to be my dream house. It’s in the woods yet near an interesting town, it’s next to a stream, it’s go a ton of problems that I know how to fix, it has no running water, the neighbors are awesome, and it could very feasibly be squatted.

0 Comments on “wagon vocabulary

  1. as far as i remember, this explicit expression “steinhäusler” (was) spread from mainz. unfortunately, beside the pure fun of inventing and using such an absurd category, there was/is a quite serious connotation included. the introduction of this word was provoked by the fact that it became more and more common to apply the term “bauwägler”/wagon people not just to tag people living in wagons, but to ascribe them at the same time certain stereotypes. even more, those stereotypes turned out, usually, to be mere negative projections and prejudices. nothing unusual if hurled from some usual local newspaper, the wagon people were now confronted with that kind of prejudices (maybe a bit more ugly) by those who reckon themselves as very very critical progressive lefties. in the rush against some detested points which they found at some single wagon person or -more often- just found in their prejudice (no need for empirical tests), these clever people who would like to fight against all kinds of biases, now were implementing their own preconceptions in order to depreciate a group of people (particularly disgusting when the content of this image tied in with the usual bourgeois jaundices). some wagon people thought those might note their mistake by confronted with the completely absurd category of (stone)house people (the “stone” was just added to make it sound better. question of the syllable structure, i think); the mirror effect would maybe accomplish to show them that one category is as senseless as the other… i think some of these enlighted persons in mainz came to their senses, reflecting this reflection. (of course, no chance ever to bring such insight to a newspaper like the jungle world). anyway, the word is still used and sounds funny (though i’m afraid, it serves now more to underline the deep abyss separating those ways of living, but for sure always in an ironic way.)
    ps, of course i’m not speaking of the few times when someone criticized politically the reactionary tendencies in wagon projects (which exist)!
    pps, for the burgeoning german student it might be interesting that the german concept of stone (stein) incorporates bricks as well. strange language.

  2. ah. beautiful, clarification/background. a factor sorely lacking in my short explanation here. i tend to oversimplify, in these the days of mandatory 140 character thoughts. always found those two terms deliciously absurd, especially steinhäusler. and behind absurdity, the abyss.

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