German Language Blog

Sayings + Expressions 10: Flowers! Posted by on Jul 19, 2016 in Culture, Language, Traditions

After a long time of no Sayings + Expressions, I am back! Today, we have a fitting theme for the beautiful, sunny Sommerwetter (summer weather): flowers! So keep reading to find out how to express yourself more elegantly in German in summer style!

Manchmal muss man durch Dornen gehen, um Rosen zu erreichen.

Sometimes you have to go through thorns in order to reach roses. 

This one is pretty straight-forward. Thorns hurt and are uncomfortable, but when you are through them, you reach roses: beautiful flowers that smell wonderfully… So: in order to reach something good, you first have to go through something bad.

It is not really clear where this Sprichwort (saying) comes from. But then it is also not that peculiar.

In contrast, the Ausdruck (expression) we have today uses the flower in another good way, but with a bad message…


Max: Mensch, ich will nicht weiter lernen! Die Klausur schaffe ich auch so! (Man, I don’t want to study anymore! I will pass the exam just like this too!)

His Mother: Aber ich dachte, du willst eine sehr gute Note für die Klausur bekommen? (But I thought, you wanted to get a very good grade for the exam?)

Max: Ja, das stimmt… (Yes, that’s true…)

His Mother: Na, Max, manchmal muss man durch Dornen gehen, um Rosen zu erreichen! (Well, Max, sometimes you have to go through thorns in order to reach roses!)

A Strohblume (Image by Stan Shebs at under license CC BY SA 3.0)

Jemanden etwas durch die Blume sagen.

To tell someone something through the flower (say something in a roundabout way)

This Ausdruck means that you tell someone something carefully, or only implicitly. This Ausdruck originated most likely in the Mittelalter (Middle Ages). Back then, Blumen (flowers) were used a lot as a symbol to tell someone something. For example, if an Edelmann (nobleman) wanted to win over a Medieval lady, he would kneel in front of her, a sign of Demut (humility). If the lady did not want him, she could tell him by giving him a flower, in such a situation specifically a Strohblume (Helichrysum flower), which would tell him that he was rejected. He would save his face this way.

Also in other ways, flowers had meanings in the Mittelalter, and so they were used a lot in sayings and expressions. Take also, for example the term unverblümt, which comes from Blumen. It means to “bluntly”. So if you don’t use a flower in order to say it (unverblümt), then you say it directly, you say it bluntly.

A saying that is related to the rejecting nature of a flower, is Danke für die Blumen (thanks for the flowers), which is sarcastic, and just means: thanks for nothing!

Anyways, back to our Ausdruch jemanden etwas durch die Blume sagen. You can also just use durch die Blume, which means implicitly, tacitly, without mentioning it or explicitly stating it. Maybe even sneakily! In any case, you do it that way, because you don’t want to say the blunt, ugly truth.

Anyways, here an example:

Heinrich: Mensch, ich muss Erika feuern, wobei sie doch so ein toller Mensch ist! Ich kann ihr das nicht direkt ins Gesicht sagen. Da sage ich ihr das lieber durch die Blume… (Boy, I have to fire Erika, even though she is such a nice person! I cannot tell her directly in her face. Then I’d rather tell her through the flower…).

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I will be back next week with episode 11! See you next week – and enjoy your Sommer!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Jeanette Ertel:

    I have been saving (printing out) your Max pieces. I will soon begin to follow them in order. I think the idea you have in presenting Max is very good and fun to use for practice in German. Thank you. Viele danke!