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BellaOnline's German Culture Editor


Streetwise German - Some of Germany's Idioms

"Alles ist im gruenen Bereich". Almost every day in Germany you will hear this German idiom describing some situation or another. A colloquial phrase that could be referring to anything: from successfully filling the gas tank without maxing out the credit card, baking a cake or booking a flight to some sub-tropical island.

"Alles ist im gruenen Bereich": literally "Everything is in the green area" and meaning Everything is under control, that it is OK.

Used by native speakers to cover just about every situation, what may seem to be "eccentric" German idioms are heard in all social circles and circumstances. Not only in conversation but also throughout the media and literature.

It is streetwise, colloquial German.

As with all languages some German expressions can be meaningless, even bizarre, if taken word for word, but are used to represent something: a feeling, a description, almost anything.

As idioms make up a large part of everyday speech in Germany, they are sometimes a little confusing for anyone who has never heard them before so has no idea what they mean.

With their origins lying in its history, literature, religion and traditions, a country's colloquial expressions indicate a great deal about the community's way of thinking, so with Kein Aber - "No But" - No "ifs", "ands" or "buts", here to enjoy, and give you an insight into the German language and Germany's people, are some of the most common sayings used in everyday speech throughout the country.

Achtung, Fertig, Los - Ready, set, go - On your mark, ready, go

    Wenn der Kuchen spricht hat der Kruemel ruhig zu sein - The crumble has to be quiet when the cake is talking - When grown ups are talking, children should listen/be quiet

    Ich lach mich krumm - I laugh myself bent - That is really funny

    Du bist allererste Sahne - You are the very first cream - You are the best

    Sich pudelwohl fuehlen - To feel as good as a poodle - To feel on top of the world

    Mit jemandem unter vier Augen sprechen - To talk with someone under four eyes - To talk privately with someone.

Definitely not flattering:

    Nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben - Not to have all cups in the cupboard - Not the sharpest knife in the drawer

    Dumm wie Bohnenstroh sein - To be as dumb as a bundle of bean straw -To be as thick as two short planks, to be very stupid

    Du gehst mir auf den Keks - You get on my cookie - You get on my nerves

    Geh dahin wo der Pfeffer waechst - Go where the pepper is growing - Go take a long walk off a short pier

    Null acht fuenfzehn - Zero eight fifteen - Nothing special

    Das kommt mir nicht in die Tuete - That doesn't go in my bag - It's not my kind of thing

    Das ist nicht das gelbe vom Ei - That's not the yolk of the egg - It's not exactly brilliant

    Ich habe keinen Bock - I have no buck - I can't be bothered

Then there is:

    Hummeln im Hintern haben - To have bumble-bees in one's bottom - To have ants in the pants

    Ganz aus dem Haeuschen sein - To be out of his/her house - To be really excited

    Auch ein blindes Huhn findet mal ein Korn - A blind chicken will find a corn eventually - Something good that happens by chance

    Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen - Freedom, Joy and Omelette - Everything's absolutely fine

    Jemanden durch den Kakao ziehen - To pull someone through the cocoa - To pull someone's leg

    Die Sau raus lassen - To let the sow out - To let your hair down

    Wo drueckt der Schuh? - Where does the shoe pinch = What troubles you?

    Mit dem linken Fuss aufstehen - Got up with the left foot - To have one of those days

    Ich seh Schwarz - I see black - I have a bad feeling about it

    Die Haare vom Kopf fressen - To eat the hair from someone's head - To eat someone out of house and home

    Herz in die Hose rutschen - The heart slides into the trousers - My heart sank

And another favorite German phrase "aus einer Muecke einen Elefanten machen" - "to make an elephant out of a mosquito" - to make something seem much bigger/more important than it is.

Just a few of the many idioms you will come across in colloquial German, but perhaps not all of them in one day.

Hope you enjoy them and that they have given you some insights into Germany and Germans, and when you hear or want to use one you will then..."Eine zusaetzliche Wurst haben" - "Have an extra sausage" - Have an advantage.

And will not have to think "Da bin ich ueberfragt" - "I have been over asked" - Hmmm, now there you have got me!

Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad is a great book which has made me laugh out loud many times. It is absolutely timeless, the observations are insightful and witty while, to someone beginning to study German, his piece "The Awful German Language" could be as relevent today as when it was written.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Francine McKenna-Klein. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Francine McKenna-Klein. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Francine McKenna-Klein for details.


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