By Madison Killen

“Carolin. No. Come on. Seriously. I can’t even pronounce it”


My best friend and I were holed up in her bedroom as it snowed outside her strange German windows that opened vertically instead of horizontally to the outside. We were prank phone calling people. I had tried to convey the form and function of the quintessential ‘is your refrigerator running?’ line, and although it took a while to adequately impart the humor to Carolin, she thought it would be the perfect line to try on her boyfriend, Phillip. She wanted me to say the line in German.

I don’t know German. I picked up a few words on that trip, but formulating and speaking the word for refrigerator eluded me time and time again. Kühlschrank.



To be fair, Carolin couldn’t pronounce the English ‘refrigerator’ either. I met Carolin when she was a foreign exchange student at my high school my junior year. She had loved California, and ardently pledged to save her heart for any easygoing, blonde surfer boy who might come along in her future. After she went back to Germany, however, she met…Phillip. On our phone calls, Carolin told me about him; he was a humorless stoic, who, although he was younger than her, believed her to be annoying in her ebullience. I had to wait until I visited Carolin in college to truly understand Phillip.

“He picked up!!! You take it, I can’t pronounce it!!”


After she told the joke, we giggled hysterically for a few minutes. When silence resurfaced, I searched Carolin’s eyes for Phillips’s response. She looked down at the pillow on her lap, frowned, and hung up the phone.

“He said that I’m stupid and immature…and he hung up on me”.

Already on that trip, I had hung out with Carolin and her boyfriend multiple times. It had been instantly clear to me that although Carolin was stuck in the grey, ice cold perpetuity of winter here, her heart still belonged to the soothing warmth of the shores of California. Phillip was the very antithesis of my radiant friend. He had to go. I just didn’t know how quite to say it.

After that episode, Julia broke up with Phillip. Even though I had to comfort her for the last days of my trip, I couldn’t quit thinking that Kuhlshrank, despite my inability to pronounce it, might be my favorite word in German language.

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