I am a language nerd, I appreciate good grammar, spelling and punctuation. And idioms are awesome. I am always intrigued to find new idioms in English and then try to find the closest translation in German. Or vice versa. It’s not always that easy. Not all idioms translate well…. but I’ve been trying to teach J as many idioms (and also colloquial phrases) in German as possible, because nothing really beats a foreigner using some colloquial expressions that nobody expects from him when visiting the in-laws (as he will this Christmas!).
Here’s a list of my favorites:
“Du hast nicht alle Tassen im Schrank“. (J’s favorite!) Literally, it translates to “you don’t have all your cups in your cupboard“. You can probably figure out what it means? Right, something along the lines of “you don’t have all your marbles”.
“Du hast eine Schraube locker.” You have a screw loose. Ha! surprisingly, this is one of the (few) idioms that works in both languages. I am always surprised when that happens.
“Du hast einen Knall” . You have a bang. Basically, it means “you are nuts” .
I swear, it’s a total coincidence that the first three idioms that came to mind have to do with calling someone a little crazy (but aren’t we all a little crazy?).
“Erstens kommt es anders und zweitens als man denkt“. First, it turns out different and second, than you thought. Yeah, this one is a little screwed up grammar-wise (even in German), but you get the picture: things never turn out the way you expect.
“Ich habe einen Bärenhunger“. I’m hungry as a bear” . Mmmh, so you explain to me why you say “to be hungry as a horse” in English. Are horses hungrier than bears? I doubt it.
“Das hat er sich jetzt gerade aus den Fingern gesaugt.” He sucked this out of his fingers just now. I have no idea where this expression originally comes from, but it basically means to make something up out of thin air or (it can also mean ‘to come up with something’).
“Das ist ein Kinderspiel“. That is a children’s game. It’s a piece of cake.
“Er hat mir eine Frikadelle ans Ohr gequatscht“. He talked a meatloaf into my ear. Also one of J’s favorites. It simply means that someone kept talking and talking and didn’t shut up.
“Halt die Klappe.” Hold the flap. This means: shut up! It can be used jokingly or when you’re real serious.
“Das kannst du laut sagen“. You can say that loudly. I use that a lot. It means: Amen to that.
Does your significant other speak a different language? Do you like to teach each other idioms? Do you know any in other languages? It makes for some funny misunderstandings sometimes, but it’s also pretty awesome to know the ins and outs of a foreign language better than any school could teach you!