“Blücher” is NOT the German word for glue (my whole world is a lie)

The 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein is one of my favorite movies. Starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, and Cloris Leachman (with an uncredited cameo by Gene Hackman), the spoof of the original 1931 Universal Studio’s Frankenstein is both hilarious and well-made, standing up to repeated viewings.

[A photo Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher peering through a doorway]Sunday evening I happened to be discussing the film with some friends, including someone who spoke German. I mentioned how much I liked the joke about the horses whinnying off-stage whenever they heard the name of Cloris Leachman’s character, Frau Blücher, being uttered, because it was German for glue.

“But the German word for glue is not ‘blücher,'” my friend Mattias said.

“Oh. Well, what is the German word for glue?” I asked.

“You could say ‘der Klebstoff’ or ‘der Leim,'” he replied.

“Well, what does ‘blücher’ mean?”

“It’s a name, it doesn’t mean anything.” (Apparently it’s a common name, too, like ‘Jones.’ EDIT: Per the comments, no, it’s not common.)

Well, I had heard that the reason the horses whinny throughout Young Frankenstein is because they were afraid of being turned into glue for a long time, from at least two different people, starting at least 20 years ago.

A quick search confirmed the debunking: Snopes, About, even IMDB. Wikipedia expanded that Cloris Leachman herself had heard it from Mel Brooks. In an interview with Brooks, he claims that someone gave him the wrong translation: “Before we started shooting, someone told me ‘blücher’ means glue, so that’s why I had the horses whinny. I’m not sure if that’s true.” However, in the audio commentary, Brooks simply says that the horses whinny because she’s an ominous character.

There are millions of people who speak German throughout the world. It’s tremendously easy to look up German words for things thanks to tools such as Google translate. But here I was a couple of nights ago, repeating an urban legend. We generally tend to believe things that we’re told, even when verification is simple. The moral: Don’t believe everything you hear. Verify things yourself.

For over 20 years I believed the word “blücher” meant glue. Now it means disillusionment.

24 Responses to ““Blücher” is NOT the German word for glue (my whole world is a lie)”

  1. mat Says:

    So… have you also foud out what “zeigen” means? :)

  2. Stephen Says:

    Mat, yes, although that too was originally something out of ignorance. The origin of this as my nickname is covered here.

  3. Tan Says:

    Both Blücher and Blucher are not a common surname in Germany. It is simply a German surname. Without any meaning.

  4. Broggly Says:

    A famous General von Blucher did send several failed cavalry charges against Napoleon, and had a horse shot out from under him at Waterloo. So it would make sense for horses to be scared of his name.

  5. Stephen Says:

    Broggly, thank you. That’s fascinating. Wki says, “In the campaign of 1815, the Prussians sustained a serious defeat at the outset at Ligny (June 16), in the course of which the old field marshal was repeatedly ridden over by cavalry and lay trapped under his dead horse for several hours, his life saved only by the devotion of his aide-de-camp, Count Nostitz.”

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I’m a potato

  7. Anonymous Says:

    A very big potato

  8. Potato Says:

    I’m the real potato

  9. Bigger potato Says:

    Oh oh this is cute

  10. Potato Says:

    Shut up

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Everybody calm were all potatoes here!!

  12. Toes Says:

    Did someone say my name

  13. Potato Says:

    No we didn’t

  14. Toes Says:

    Aw

  15. lips Says:

    “I’ll tell you what “Blücher” means in Yiddish. Mel Brooks told me a few years ago. It means “glue.” So all the horses were afraid that they were going to be sent to the glue factory.” – Cloris Leachman (Frau Blucher)

  16. Stephen Says:

    I’m sure she said it, but it’s still not true. The Yiddish word for glue is ???? or kley. http://www.yiddishword.com/g/glue

  17. Sadrak Kabir Says:

    Dare to think the unthinkable.

    If you connect the word Blucher with ‘glue’, glue is sticky.

    You notice in further in the movie Frau Blücher – ugly and old – is dying to get laid.

    I consider the horses whinny as ‘abused so many times, please leave us alone’.

  18. Grent Says:

    Blucher is a shoe design, named after Field Marshall Blucher.
    It is designed to repel water and mud by having a seamless toe. They look a lot like oxford shoes.
    They were made from HORSE HIDE.

  19. Paulio Says:

    I just watched the movie, for the 10th or 15th time. One of the greatest comedies ever. I was also disappointed several years ago when I found out the “blucher” is not a German word. But today as I was watching it I realized that the setting was not in a Germanic country. It was in Transylvania, which is now part of Romania and also has cultural ties to Hungary. But Google Translate had no meaning for it in those languages, nor the Slovakian, Czech, or other Eastern European languages. Why did we think German would make sense anyway? I like the explanation that someone told Mel Brooks the wrong translation for glue, but that could also be rumor.

  20. Steve Says:

    Nobody mentioned that the line “Blucher means glue” is in the credits

  21. Stephen Says:

    Is that actually true, though? I’ve seen the film many times and never noticed this. I would expect this to appear in IMDB’s “Crazy Credits” section, but there’s no mention: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072431/trivia?tab=cz

  22. Ano Namous Says:

    ALL names, usually have a meaning (unless someone deliberately makes up a random mix of letters), even Blucher.

    Last name: Blucher
    Amongst the great surnames of Germany that of “Blucher” is one of the most prominent. Like many such surnames it is of residential origins, and derives from the village of the same name near Boizenburg, on the river Elbe. The placename is of Slavonic origin, and it is thought that it describes a particular type of log cabin common in the region in ancient times. The surname is also found in the spelling forms of Bluecher and Bluechert. Not only is “Blucher” one of the most prominent of German surnames, with Coats of Arms granted to nameholders in Bavaria, Pomerania, Prussia and Mecklenburg (the epicentre of the surname) it is one of the earliest…

    http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Blucher

  23. doug johnson Says:

    A close friend from Hamburg told me that Blucher meant castrater.

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