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One of my favourite ways of getting inspiration for blog posts is simply by talking to people. I absolutely adore it when people ask me questions, because even if they are as simple as, “What’s the word for xyz in German?” I always come away from the conversation with new ideas.
This particular one came from a friend who was talking about the word Ausland. When I said that it literally translates to ‘Out-Country’ or ‘Out-Land’ he said, “But I thought the word for out was raus?” He thought this because he knew that the translation of the Rammstein song Rein, Raus was In, Out. I tried to explain why it was aus and not raus, but my explanations are always better when I’ve had time to sit, think, and write everything down. So that’s what I did. I hope this helps.
Aus is a little confusing because it has numerous meanings:
Aus can mean off (‘Mach das Licht aus’ – turn the light out)
Aus can mean come from (‘Er kommt aus Finnland’ – he comes from Finland)
Aus can mean made from (‘Aus welchem Material ist deine Jacke?’ – which material is your jacket made of?)
Aus can mean out of (‘Ich ging aus dem Haus’ – I went out of the house)
Aus can mean over/finished (‘Der Film ist aus’ – The film is over)
Using raus in place of aus in any of the above sentences would make the sentences meaningless.
If you said simply said “Aus.”, you’d be giving an instruction to switch something off/end something.
If you simply said “Raus.”, you’d be commanding someone or something to get out (of your home, office, etc.)
Raus comes from the word heraus, which roughly translates to ‘out of here’. The word raus is used as a command, implying that someone or something goes from one place to another. It is quite normal to say ‘Geh raus!’ (‘Get out!’) or ‘Raus von hier!’ (‘Get out of here!’), but saying ‘Geh aus!’ or ‘Aus von hier!’, using aus instead of raus, does not have the same implication.
Take the following two phrases, both of which literally translate to “Light out”:
So if both aus and raus mean out, these commands mean the same thing, right? Wrong.
Licht aus is telling you to turn off your light.
Licht raus is telling you to get out your light (as in, physically get it out of your pocket or something).
There is a song by Otto Kermbach titled “Licht aus, Messer raus!” meaning “Lights out, knife out!” It is immediately clear to an English speaker that these are two very different actions – turning a light out and getting a knife out – they just happen to share the same English word, ‘out’. But they do not in German. If you understand why these two actions differ, then you will be able to understand why aus and raus differ.
In the case of the Rammstein song Rein, Raus the use of these words instead of ‘Ein, Aus’ makes sense because the words ‘Rein’ and ‘Raus’ describe the actions of going ‘in and out’ (which matches the song’s, erm… commanding tone) whereas the words ‘Ein, Aus’ make it ambiguous; if it were called ‘Ein, Aus’ it could translate to ‘On, Off’, which is wrong, and nothing to do with the meaning of the song. Also note that the word rein comes from herein – just like raus comes from heraus – and means get in/go in.
So back to the original question: Why is it Ausland and not Rausland? Hopefully, if my post has been informative enough, you’ll now understand why the word Rausland makes no sense whatsoever. That might translate to… A country where everybody gets out? It is too nonsensical to even translate! The word Ausland, however, should now make perfect sense.
There are many more complexities to the German words aus and raus, and this post was not meant to cover them all. But I hope it has at least cleared up the confusion over why aus and raus are not one and the same.
As always, questions, suggestions and comments are welcome!