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Guten Tag! Today I’d like to share some German Redewendungen – sayings/expressions – with you. The German language has many expressions that contain the word der Teufel – devil. Some of these are the same in English, while others are completely different. Some are very straight-forward, while others are more imaginative! The prominence of this word in the German language most probably has a religious association, much in the same way that the word Gott (God) is used (‘O mein Gott’ – ‘Oh my God’ etc). There just seem to be more of these in German than there are in English. So, without further ado, here is a selection of German Redewendungen that use the word der Teufel!
Lit: ‘To paint the devil on the wall’
When we assume the worst of a situation, before anything has even happened, Germans say we paint the devil on the wall.
Lit: ‘When you name the devil’
Although this is identical to the English expression, there is another, much more imaginative Redewendung in German for the very same expression: ‘Wenn man vom Esel tratscht, kommt er gelatscht’ – ‘When you talk about the donkey, he comes strolling along’!
A phrase identical to the English, but it’s worth noting that you can use it with was (what?), where (wo?), warum (why?) and wie (how?). Use it in the same way as you would in English: “Wo bist du?” = “Where are you?” and “Wo zum Teufel bist du?” = “Where the devil are you?”
Lit: ‘In an emergency, the devil will eat flies’
Another example where the German phrase mentions the devil but the English one doesn’t.
Lit: ‘The devil is a squirrel’
Perhaps one of the most well-known of the bunch, this German, Teufel-related phrase isn’t suggesting that all squirrels are evil, but is a cautionary phrase telling us that the devil often comes disguised as something seemingly friendly and harmless – like a squirrel.
Lit: ‘Give the devil your little finger and he’ll take your whole hand’.
Lit: ‘To be in the devil’s kitchen’. Meaning: To be in trouble/in a bad situation.
Lit: ‘To sell your soul to the devil’
Lit: ‘Go to the devil’
As you can see, some are very straight-forward while others are a little more interesting. Do you know of any more Redewendungen that use the word or image of der Teufel – the devil? Let me know in the comments and I can add them to the post!
I’ll leave you with a devil-themed saying I came across earlier. See if you can figure out what it means. No cheating! I’ll give you a clue: It is about women. 😉