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Sayings + Expressions 15 – Die Sau! Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in Culture, Language, People, Traditions, vocabulary

Sayings and expressions! It’s been quite some time, so let’s have some fun with two today – related to the Sau (sow). The Schwein (pig) and the Sau (sow) in particular have widespread meaning in the German language. So this post might get a follow up! Let’s start today – beginning with the expression!

Check here for previous posts in this series

Die Sau raus lassen

Lass mal die Sau raus! (Even if this is a little piglet :D) (Image by Christopher Carson at Unsplash.com)

To have a wild time (“To let the sow out”)

This is quite a well-known expression related to the Sau. It means that you are going to have a wild time, or just have an enjoyable night, that is ungewöhnlich (out of the ordinary).

It has its likeness a bit with “to let the dogs out”, but… Well, do I need to say more?

There are actually several possible origins of this expression. One says that in a medieval Kartenspiel (card game), there was a Karte (card) which was called the “Daus”, or “Sau” – it had a very high value. If someone played the card, he ließ die Sau raus (let the sow out). And that made the game a lot more exciting! So it could come from that game. Another explanation, also from the Mittelalter (Middle Ages) is a story of students in Heidelberg, who on their way home from a crazy night opened the doors of the Schweineställe (pigsties) and all the pigs ran out! Another medieval possibility: there were, unlike today, no rooms for parties for common people. So if there was something big to celebrate, the Sau was let out, so that the Schweinestall could be used for the party.


Heute Abend lassen wir mal die Sau raus!

Tonight we are going to really have a wild time!

Du arbeitest ja Tag und Nacht, lass doch mal die Sau raus!

You are working day and night, go and let the sow out!

Was juckt es die Eiche, wenn eine Sau sich an ihr reibt?

Das ist der Eiche doch egal! (The oak really won’t care!) (Image by Annie Spratt at Unsplash.com)

“What does the oak care, if a sow rubs itself against it?”

You may find this Sprichwort (saying) in different forms – but they all mean the same: you (as the Eiche) should not care what somebody else (the Sau) says about you. It is Zeitverschwendung (a waste of time) to be concerned with the lästern (tattling) of others.

The Eiche takes a special place as a tree, as the Brüder Grimm (Grimm brothers – yes, those that wrote all the Märchen) gave the Eiche the title Königin aller Bäume (Queen of all trees). According to them, she deserves this title for its Stärke (strength), Höhe (height) and lange Dauer (long life).

A sow is seen as ugly, stinky, fat – something people do not want to be. So while mostly, this Sprichtwort is seen as a sign of self-confidence, this aspect leads others to believe that it is a rather arrogant thing to say.

The Sprichwort is from the book “Tadellöser & Wolff” from 1971, an autobiography by Walter Kempowski. In 1939, during a dinner scene, his mother tells his brother that he looks widerlich (disgusting). The brother, however, just continues eating. The only thing he says is “Was kümmert es die stolze Eiche, wenn sich ein Borstenvieh dran wetzt.” (What does the proud oak care if a bristle beast (a pig, sow or hog) rubs itself against it).


Ach, hör’ doch nicht auf diese Leute! Was juckt es die Eiche, wenn eine Sau sich an ihr reibt!

Oh, don’t listen to these people! What does the oak care, if a sow rubs itself against it!

Do you have equivalents for these two in your language? How are pigs and sows seen in your language? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, and I am half Dutch and half German. I was on exchange in the United States, and I really enjoyed that year! So in that sense, I kind of have three nationalities... I love all of them!