German words expats should know: Spargeltarzan

German words expats should know: Spargeltarzan

We all know Spargel means asparagus in German, and we all know Tarzan. But what on Earth is a Spargeltarzan? Here’s everything you need to know about the sometimes endearing, sometimes cutting German slang word.

What is a Spargeltarzan?

Simply put, a Spargeltarzan is the German-language equivalent of a beanpole, a lanky person, most commonly a man, who could be described as “gangly” in English

As with “lanky” or “gangly” in English, “Spargeltarzan” is not a swear word or very strong insult, but it still might be a hurtful thing to say to someone depending on your relationship with them and if they are self-conscious of their svelte stature.

What are the origins of Spargeltarzan?

The origins of the “asparagus Tarzan” take us back to the mid-1970s, when West Germany had listened to Abba’s pleas and taken SOS to number one, and the cracks in the Berlin Wall were beginning to show.

The term Spargeltarzan had already been in existence since the mid-20th century but was given a new lease of life after German tabloid newspaper Bild used it in reference to then-FC Schlake 04 midfielder, Hans Bongartz. From then on, the Bonn-born player would be named Hans “Spargeltarzan” Bongartz, thanks to his lean build.

Suggesting the slender spurt of Spargel mixed with the rugged, stocky nature of E.R Burrough’s Tarzan character, Spargeltarzan is an oxymoron which means more the former than the latter of its components. 

Whether Bild intended to shame with their description is unknown, but Hanz Bongartz took his given nickname in his long strides to the point where newspapers and TV presenters began using it affectionately and the word eventually seeped into everyday German vocabulary.

Thumb image credit: Keegan Divant /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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