In eastern Pennsylvania, the adjective strubbly describes hair that’s unkempt or messed up. This dialectal term apparently derives from a German word that means tousled. This is part of a complete episode.

  1. imtphoto says:

    I’m a native speaker of German although I grew up in the US. I remember hearing a series of grotesque children’s stories from my father and his brothers, who grew up in Austria in the 1930s and 40s. One of these, by Heinrich Hoffmann, was “Struwwelpeter” (the ‘ww’ is pronounced like an “ff/pp”). It’s a classic– a boy named Peter grows his hair and nails so long that he becomes an outcast. There’s no happy ending. Hoffmann also illustrated the stories, and Peter is shown with freakishly long, wiry fingernails and an explosion of hair, as though he had gotten too close to an electric socket.
    The other stories in the collection (itself titled “Struwwelpeter”) include a girl who plays with matches and burns to death, and a boy who refuses to eat soup day after day until he eventually becomes so thin–depicted as a single vertical line– and disappears. These stories were never far from the conversation when adults were admonishing children regarding behavior, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Struwwel from Struwwelpeter made its way into the German and then English languages through those well-known stories.

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