Up here!

While browsing camera gear at B&H in Midtown Manhattan, I snapped these photos of the Oben tripod section.

Oben! What a great German word! (But, really, aren’t they all great?)

Oben means up, above, or top, so it’s an apt name for a company that builds devices that keep cameras off the ground and features the slogan, “Oben supports climb above the rest” with a photo of a mountain climber.

There’s no mention on their website of where the name came from or if the company is even German, but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear it was intentional. (Germany also has a reputation for producing very high quality cameras and lenses – like Leicas, which I’ll write more about soon – so tripods and supports might not be far off).

Imagine: Your friend, Karl-Heinz, an avid mountain climber, packs up his Leica and his Oben tripod and adventures off up the snowy peak of the Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest point. Warm in the ski lodge at the foot of the mountain, someone asks you, “Wo ist Karl-Heinz?” (Where is Karl-Heinz?). You gaze wistfully up to the snowy peaks, point to the top and reply, “Da oben.” Up there.

It’s good, right?

Oben is a locative adverb (Lokaladverb), which means it can be used alone or with other words to describe location or a relation to a particular location. So, when you point to Karl-Heinz up on Zugspitze, you’re saying he’s not just da (simply “there”), but da oben..UP there. If he was at the tippy-top, he’d be ganz oben.

Or imagine: Karl-Heinz is in the lodge, but upstairs. Wo ist er? Oben.

You’re at the mall with K-H and he wants to go to the ski shop upstairs. Wo ist es? Oben.

If it was a really warm day and Karl-Heinz went skiing without a shirt on, he’d be skiing oben ohne — “above without” — more accurately, “topless.”

In a more academic vein, German writers may refer to things that they said previously by using the phrases oben genannt or oben erwähnt, the equivalent of the English “aforementioned” or “abovementioned.”

These are but a few of the most common uses of oben in German. I’ll end with favorite instance of oben, the German title of Disney Pixar’s UP:



Onward! Upward! Nach oben!


oben (adv.) – above, up, upstairs

da oben – up there

ganz oben – at the very top

oben genannt – abovementioned

oben ohne – topless