German Sayings Translated Literally (pt3) | German Language Blog

LearnGermanwith Us!

Start Learning!

German Language Blog

German Sayings Translated Literally (pt3) Posted by on May 25, 2016 in Language

Guten Tag, everybody!

This is the third and final post in my mini-series on German idioms! In the first post, I helped you translate those German postcards that feature German sayings translated literally into English (something only German speakers can truly appreciate – hence I wanted to help you enjoy them). The second post focused more on phrases that are relatively the same in English (because German doesn’t always like to confuse and bemuse!). In this third and final post I am bringing you a selection of other, quirky German sayings that are totally different in English. They might exist on postcards, they might not. I’ll translate them literally, too, just in case!

 

No table to unscramble this time (which means no work for you – yay). Let’s take it easy, have some fun and enjoy these amusing German idioms! Can you think of any more to add?

 

ETWAS DURCH DIE BLUME SAGEN
TO SAY SOMETHING THROUGH A FLOWER
Means:
TO SAY SOMETHING IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY, SO AS NOT TO INSULT

Eating a flower in Chinese Garden 2005

Etwas durch die Blume sagen. Photo: calistan on flickr.com under a CC license (CC BY 2.0)

 

ÜBER SEINEN SCHATTEN SPRINGEN
TO JUMP OVER  YOUR SHADOW
Means: TO SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE

 

DIE ARSCHKARTE ZIEHEN
TO PULL THE ARSE CARD
Means: TO DRAW THE SHORT STRAW (German version wins hands-down here, let’s be honest)

 

DUMM AUS DER WÄSCHE GUCKEN
TO LOOK STUPIDLY THROUGH THE WASHING
Means: TO LOOK BLANKLY, ‘LIKE A DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS’ (This one is a personal favourite in German)

 

Towel Head

Dumm aus der Waesche gucken. Photo: jimwhimpey on flickr.com under a CC license (CC BY 2.0)

 

BIS IN DIE PUPPEN
UNTIL IN THE DOLLS
Means: INTO THE EARLY HOURS/DEEP INTO THE NIGHT (A very strange expression, if you ask me. Apparently, at one stage the phrase ‘bis in die Puppen’ was used to describe a very long walk. There was a place in Berlin called the ‘Puppenplatz’ (‘doll place’) which took a very long time to get to from the city centre. So to go ‘Bis in die Puppen’ suggested you were going to be gone for a rather long time.)

 

DIE BIRNE EINSCHALTEN
TO SWITCH ON THE PEAR
Means:
TO USE ONE’S BRAIN/’USE YOUR LOAF’ (Sometimes, Germans call a brain/mind a Birne – a pear. The English sometimes call it a ‘loaf’, so it’s not that weird when you think about it!)

 

DER TEUFEL IST EIN EICHHÖRNCHEN
THE DEVIL IS A SQUIRREL
Means: EVIL COMES DISGUISED AS SOMETHING INNOCENT

Primal Roar!

Der Teufel ist ein Eichhoernchen. Photo: kurt-b on flickr.com under a CC license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

What do you think of these sayings? Do you have any more to add? Please feel free to leave your favourites in the comments, be they well-known, regional, or even ones you’ve made up! Any questions are welcome, too.

***ALSO!*** If there are any specific topics you’d like me to cover on the blog, please let me know in a comment! I’m always on the lookout for inspiration, so please tell me if there is anything you need help with & I’ll see what I can do! 🙂

Bis bald!

Constanze

Tags: , , , ,
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Anita du Plooy:

    I would like when do you use the word “Menchen” (people) and when do you use the word “Leute” (which also meanse people? I never know which one to use.

    Can you help?

    Thanks for your regular posts. I find it very informative and very helpful while learning German.

    Kind regards
    Anita

  2. Joseph T. Madawela:

    I am curious about terminology used in Science and the arts.

  3. helen:

    I liked these German sayings, thx. How about a blog about German clothes brands?

  4. Allan Mahnke:

    These are great! Thanks!

  5. Christopher Fleischmann:

    Guten tag Constanze!

    Many years ago, My father and his bride took a trip to Germany, and brought me back a souvenir apron On it is the image of a short squat man with red cheeks,small angel’s wings and a train conductor’s type hat (red) with the name Aloysious on it. He is wearing what appears to be a night shirt. He is standing barefoot on a cloud, his hands on his hips, his mouth open, and appears angry. Below this image, in old style German print, appears to be the words “Luhia, sag i!” (Although the ‘L’ may be a different letter)

    This has baffled those German born whom I have asked. One person said he thought it might be bayerische, and meant something like ‘I told you so” I thought i’d try ‘die birne einschalten’, and ask in a quarter in which I may have ‘fuitful’ results. Thanks for any light you would shed!

  6. Sarah Barrett:

    My mum in law often calls my children”Drei Käse hoch” (three cheeses high) and Mäuschen (little Mouse) Come to think of it Germans love to use animals to insult and as terms of endearment.

  7. Sarah Barrett:

    As a Mum I’d love to read a series on Kinderlieder – popular German nursery Rhymes. I learn best by singing so love to find native Material to learn with.

  8. Lori:

    My understanding of “Birne” in the sense above is a lightbulb (Glühbirne), not a pear. So the literal translation would be “to turn on a bulb.” And do you call Wäsche washing in the UK as opposed to laundry? Love language!

  9. Sandeep Varma Ganaraju:

    Hello Constanze,

    Thanks! for the article. I cannot remember these sentences but fun to read. My favorite and for most of students would be ” DUMM AUS DER WÄSCHE GUCKEN “. 😀

    P.S. Special thanks to ‘The Germanz’ team for redirecting me here.

  10. Sandeep Varma Ganaraju:

    Hello Constanze,

    Thanks! for the article. I cannot remember these sentences but fun to read. My favorite and for most of students would be ” DUMM AUS DER WÄSCHE GUCKEN “. 😀

    P.S. Special thanks to The Germanz team for redirecting me here.

  11. Pete:

    In Australian English we have a few cute sayings that don’t translate well:
    Mappa Tassie (map of Tasmania) – a vagina
    Show us where the pig gotchya – show us your vagina
    We also use the word (carefully, context is everything) ‘cunt’ as a term of endearment for example “How are ya, ya old cunt”.