I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. Come join me. #nablopomo2022
People have told me in the past that they loved these posts, so I am bringing back an old favorite today. Once upon a time, I used to share German idioms for NaBloPoMo. I must have shared dozens of idioms over the years, but then did the last rendition in 2019. I guess I had kinda run out of idioms.
But I love language and its nuances and I’ve always enjoyed learning English idioms. I also really enjoy teaching German idioms to my non-native German-speaking husband. He now successfully drops one or another German idiom in conversation with me and it’s always a bit of a fist-pump-kinda-moment.
Some idioms translate pretty closely, some you can probably figure out from the literal translation, but others are completely unique. Jon and I speak a mix of English and German at home (mostly English with German words/phrases sprinkled in) and sometimes, even I forget if the “literal translation” of an idiom actually works in Englisch or not, or if we have been smashing both languages together for too long.
But I digress.
Since there’s a fair number of new readers, I thought I’d post a round-up of some of my favorite idioms that I think are still fairly commonly used. (As you know, language is fluid, and even within Germany different regions might use different idioms as well. I invite my German readers to chime in!)
“Du hast nicht alle Tassen im Schrank“. You don’t have all your cups in your cupboard. (This is one of Jon’s favorites and one he uses with confidence! Not that he ever really has a reason to say that to me or anything.) You can probably figure out what it means. Right, something along the lines of “you have lost your marbles”.
“Er hat mir eine Frikadelle ans Ohr gequatscht“. He talked a meatloaf into my ear. Also one of Jon’s favorites. It simply means that someone keeps talking and talking and doesn’t shut up.
“Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof.” Life is not a pony farm. Not exactly sure where this idiom has its origin, but it basically means that life on a pony farm is easy and carefree, which real life is not. The English equivalent is life is no walk in the park.
Das ist nicht dein Bier.” That is not your beer. I mean! Could there be an idiom that is more German than this one? The Germans like their beer…. and if something is none of your business, then it’s also none of your beer. Ha!
“Ich drücke dir die Daumen.” I squeeze my thumbs for you. Yes, did you know that in Germany, we don’t cross fingers, but we make a fist and squeeze our thumbs for good luck? (Try doing both at the same time = twice the amount of luck!)
Du kannst mich mal am A…bend besuchen. You can come visit me in the evening.
Ok, this one is actually funny. The original saying goes “du kannst mich mal am Arsch lecken” (you can lick my ass!), but because that is very vulgar, someone started using “du kannst mich mal am Abend besuchen” (changing the sentence last minute from using “Arsch” (ass) to “Abend”(evening). The implication is still the same, it just sounds nicer: you can kiss my ass.
“Du hast wohl einen Clown gefrühstückt.” Seems like you had a clown for breakfast. You can use this phrase sarcastically, to say that somebody is not particularly funny, or if you want to point out that someone is extraordinarily silly. I couldn’t find a real English idiom for this.
“Seinen Senf dazugeben.” To add your mustard. It means to put in your two cents. Don’t know why we have an obsession with food-related idioms, but there are many!
“Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen.” To play the miffed liverwurst. Haha. Also a classic. It sounds hilarious in English. It basically means that someone is easily miffed and offended and everybody knows it, so people are calling the person out on it. To get into a huff does not nearly have the same ring, amirite?
“Sich eine Eselsbrücke bauen.” To build a donkey bridge. This means finding a mnemonic device to memorize something. I’ve taught this phrase (in literal translation) to all my co-workers and ‘donkey bridge’ is now an established phrase around my office. Haha.
Your turn: Teach me an idiom! Or ask me for the translation of an English idiom into German!