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Sayings + Expressions 20: Good Luck! Posted by on Dec 27, 2018 in Culture, Folklore, Language, People

Welcome to this year’s last Sayings + Expressions! At the end of the year, we look back at the last twelve months, and look forward to the next. Of course, we want the next year to be (even) better! The Germans have their ways of expressing this. Let’s find out how!

For older posts, please follow this link. Now, let’s start with the Sprichwort (saying)!

Sich regen bringt Segen

Sich regen bringt Segen! (Image by rawpixel at Unsplash.com)

Literally: Moving yourself brings blessings

Hard work pays off

The meaning of this Sprichwort is quite straightforward. Work hard, and you will see results. Great. On to the expression.

Just kidding. There is actually more to this Sprichwort than you would expect. The idea that working hard will bring you a blessing was not always around. Back in the early Mittelalter (Middle Ages), it was believed that you would receive God’s Segen if you prayed and went to church. This changed in the Frühe Neuzeit (Early Modern Age) with the reformation. The idea now was that making the best of a situation, working hard to get there, would get you God’s love and blessing. This new thinking also appears to have been the foundation for the economic, capitalist thinking that we have today.

Example:

Du willst gern Astronaut werden? Das schaffst du schon, sich regen bringt Segen!

(You want to become an astronaut? You will get there, hard work pays off!)

Heinrich möchte gern 50 Kilogramm abnehmen, und sollte dafür wirklich mehr Sport treiben. Sich regen bringt Segen!

(Heinrich would like to lose 50 kilograms (110 lb), and should really do more sports for that. Hard work pays off!)

 

On to the Ausdruck (expression)!

Jemandem die Daumen drücken

Viel Erfolg! (Image by Katya Austin at Unsplash.com)

Literally: Press the thumbs for somebody

I’ll keep my fingers crossed

Both in German and English, we use our hands to wish somebody good luck. Interestingly, though in Germany, we do not cross our fingers, we press our thumbs…. Why, you might ask?

While crossing your fingers to shape a cross, referring to the Christian symbol, the thumb pressing comes from römische Gladiatorenkämpfe (Roman gladiator fights). Back then, the gladiator would put up his finger to indicate that he wanted the Gnade (mercy) from the Kaiser (emperor). If the Volk (people) wanted him to die, they would put their thumb up. If the Kaiser granted his Gnade, he would press his thumb. So that would be good luck for the gladiator! And so, we press our thumbs to wish somebody good luck.

There is also a much less known alternative: jemandem die Daumen halten (to hold your thumb for somebody). The interesting thing here is the origin. It is not Roman, but actually from Aberglauben (superstition). It was believed that the Finger (fingers) and Daumen contained Geister (spirits) that used their magic on their own behalf, and the Daumen was considered the strongest Geist with most Kräfte (powers). Because it could cause you bad luck, you would hold the Daumen, so it could do no harm!

Some examples:

Adriana, ich hoffe, dass dein Interview gut geht heute! Ich drücke dir die Daumen!

(Adriana, I hope that your interview goes well today! I’ll keep my fingers crossed!)

Morgen habe ich einen großen Tag. Bitte drückt mir die Daumen!

(I have a big day tomorrow. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!)

How are these in your language? Do you use this saying and expression like that as well? 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!


Comments:

  1. John E Loth:

    Shouldn’t it read “jemandem die Daumen drücken?”

    Dative is used in the other examples.

    • Sten:

      @John E Loth You are right, I must have overlooked that. Thank you!

  2. Paul Spraetz:

    Excellent….appreciate your email………and help with
    my learning German