It’s not really low humour, and besides, I’m not one to reject humour.
As an encouragement for everyone to keep the environment clean (aside from personal and collective responsibility), the ubiquitous red garbage or waste bins throughout the city of Innsbruck are all tagged with a succinct sentence that’s amusing and punny. I don’t abide by the stereotype that the German language can’t be funny; instead, the stereotype persists because of lazy ignorant thinking.
Many small red waste-bins or garbage cans are located throughout the Tirolean capital. With a real chance to causing double takes, the different sayings on the bins is a mix of Austrian German and English, encouraging residents and visitors to use them as intended. The bins are emptied when city staff open them from underneath. This “attraction to waste” is not a unique phenomenon, as various other cities employ a similar trick; for example, in Hamburg and Berlin. But when a waste-bin urges people to feed it, I find it hard to look away.
From over 1200 submissions for a public city-wide competition for the best slogans, 20 were selected and unveiled in autumn 2010 (Innsbruck informiert, 2010: 15 Sept and 6 Oct). Theses mottos are on hundreds of bins in the city. Below are 17 out of 20 for a 85% completion rate, which is pretty good for a few days in and out of town.
For the compound noun “Müllsprüche”, the literal meaning is “rubbish slogans” or “trash mottos.” There’s a lot you can do to that in English; you can either keep the intended meaning or change the meaning to match your joy. As for me, I find them neither rubbish or trashy.
Man muss auch loslassen können. / You also have to be able to let go. Photo in Altstadt, 10 May.
Ich wär so gerne Müllionär. / I’d love to be a garbage collector. “Müll” is the word for trash or rubbish, and plays on the pronunciation pun for millionaire. Photo in Altstadt, 10 May.
Lieber Müll im Kübel als Dreck am Stecken. / Better trash in the can than skeletons in your closet. Photo in Altstadt, 10 May.
Selten so voll gefühlt. / Rarely (have I) felt so full. Photo in Altstadt, 10 May.
Ich nehme auch Bargeld und Kreditkarten. / I also take cash and credit cards. Photo in Altstadt, 10 May.
Verschmitzt statt verschmutzt. / Naughty, instead of dirty. Photo in Altstadt, 10 May.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Photo in Altstadt, 10 May.
Eigentlich wollte ich ein Flugzeug werden. / Actually I wanted to become an airplane. Photo on Inn-Brücke, 11 May.
Hast a la Mista, Baby? ‘Hast’ is the 2nd-person singular form of the verb ‘to have’ (i.e., you have), and ‘Mist’ is a colloquial term for crap or trash. ‘Terminator’ Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in the Austrian town of Thal near Graz. Photo in Altstadt, 11 May.
Wilten hier niemand Müll einwerfen? / Didn’t anyone want to throw trash in here? Wilten is the name of a southern district next to the city’s Old Town, and is a play on the preterite form ‘wollten’ for ‘wollen’, the German verb ‘to want’. Photo near Hofkirche, 11 May.
Rein oder nicht rein, das ist hier die Frage. / In or not in, that is the question. ‘Rein’ rhymes with ‘sein’, the German verb ‘to be.’ Photo near Landestheater, 11 May.