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Sayings + Expressions 9 – The Spanish Vitamin Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Culture

After some absence, I am back with a new Sayings + Expressions! This week – a Spanish vitamin… Does that make sense? Read on to find out…

Vitamin B(eziehungen) 

Vitamin C(ontacts) (good connections)

As we all know, vitamin B is a very important vitamin that we need to survive. It regulates certain vital parts of our metabolism. In German everyday speech, this fact quickly transformed into Vitamin B, where the B stands for Beziehungen (contacts/relationships).

Vitamins (Image by Steven Depolo at Flickr.com under CC BY 2.0)

Vitamin B is a widespread metaphor to express that someone got a job, for example, because of certain relationships. It may be seen as a euphemism, as it is not often seen as positive when you got a position just because of vitamin B. Of course, it is very possible that somebody has the contacts and is qualified as well, but the importance of the vitamin cannot be denied. An example:

Stefan hat den Job nur bekommen, weil der Chef ein guter Freund seines Vaters ist! Ohne Vitamin B hätte ich ihn mit Sicherheit bekommen!

Stefan only got the job because his father is good friends with the boss! Without vitamin C I would have got it for sure!


Das kommt mir Spanisch vor

That seems like Spanish to me (that’s Greek to me)

As in English, das kommt mir Spanisch vor means that something strange or fishy is going on. You don’t trust it. But why Spanish? And why Greek?

In German, the association of Spanish with strange or fishy originates in the sixteenth century, at the time of King Charles V, who also was Charles I of Spain. Under his reign, Spanish Sitten (customs) slowly entered German culture. They were still seen as alien and new. And, wary as people were, probably also as fishy.

In English, Shakespeare started it in his play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar from 1599. This is the passage:

CASSIUS: Did Cicero say any thing?
CASCA: Ay, he spoke Greek.
CASSIUS: To what effect?
CASCA: Nay, an I tell you that, I’ll ne’er look you i’ the face again: but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me. I could tell you more news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs off Caesar’s images, are put to silence. Fare you well. There was more foolery yet, if I could remember it.


And Shakespeare probably got it from the Romans: Graecum est, non legitur (is it Greek, it cannot be read). In the Middle Ages, this was used as Monks got used to Latin, but less and less to Greek.

To wrap up: it is important to have vitamin B, as you want to get somewhere. Though, if you are not qualified, and only got the job through vitamin B, then I can imagine: das kommt mir Spanisch vor! 


Peter ist gerade in China auf “Geschäftsreise”, aber das kommt mir Spanisch vor. Ich glaube, er macht sich einen schönen Urlaub!

Peter is on a business trip in China right now, but that’s Greek to me. I think, he’s having a wonderful vacation!


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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!


  1. Jen:

    I have always understood “it’s all Greek to me” to mean you can’t understand a word of what’s being said. For example, if someone is talking in very technical language to you, language that is only understood by experts in the field, you’d say “it’s all Greek to me” as a way of saying you might as well be hearing a foreign language. The German Spanish equivalent is the same.

    • Sten:

      @Jen Yes, the literal translation does not quite get the full picture, I am afraid. “Das kommt mir Spanisch vor” does imply that something strange is going on. Expert language is more coined in “Fachchinesisch” (expert chinese), as that really gets tough :). I think in the Shakespeare original, “It’s all greek to me” also seems to imply a certain strangeness, don’t you think?