Friday, February 14, 2014

Fantastic German phrases

I've written about interesting and amusing German words already, so today I thought I'd tell you about some fun German phrases I've come across during my time here so far.

Nichts für ungut...

Literally translated, this means "Nothing for ungood...", and it's usually followed by a thought beginning with "but" and ending with something ungood. In English we would say "No offense, but..." and finish with a statement that offends.
Nichts für ungut, aber ich muss mir viel Mühe geben, Sie ernst zu nehmen.
Nothing for ungood, but it takes real effort to take you seriously.

Scheiße bauen

American students get scolded for screwing around in class; German students get in trouble for building shit. I heard this one in my Englisch AG yesterday (AG = Arbeitsgemeinschaft, or an extra-curricular learning experience, like "English Club"). I was reminding some of the students that their headmaster is a good friend of mine, and I asked if their behavior would be ok with him. One of the girls said, "No, when we build shit, then we get sent out and have to have a talk with him." Now, I am aware that the German word "Scheiße" is not as vulgar as the English equivalent, and kids don't generally get scolded for using it. But I commented in the sense of telling them about a cultural difference between our two countries, that an American student would surely not say the word "shit" to a teacher. One of the boys informed me that one can also say "Mist bauen", which would be "to build manure", and he promised to phrase it that way in the future.

Ich hab' Schiss

Keeping on the theme of excrement for just another moment, this phrase means "I have shit." The intended meaning is that the speaker is scared or nervous, and Martin explained it as "I'm shitting myself." Nowadays American kids would say, "I'm literally shitting myself," not that the word "literally" carries any meaning at all anymore.

This is my son several years ago at an animal park in Tennessee. Someone put a parrot on his shoulder, and then something behind them freaked out the parrot, who dug his claws into Alex's shoulder to keep his balance. 

I'd say his face captures the sentiment of "Ich hab Schiss!"

Abwarten und Tee trinken

"Well, we made our request. What should we do now?"
"Abwarten und Tee trinken."  (Wait, and drink some tea.)
Although the favorite beverage in German is coffee (more liters of coffee are drunk by Germans per capita than beer, to dispell a popular myth), when one needs to wait for the results of something, the beverage of choice is tea. Perhaps it's the alliteration, or perhaps the balanced and orderly sentence (3 syllables in abwarten, 3 syllables in Tee trinken). In any case, When you need to wait and see, have yourself a cup of tea. See what I did there?

die Kirche im Dorf lassen

"Look, people. Let's just leave the church in the village."
Right. Sounds like a good idea (since how would we get the church out of the village?) This is a lovely little phrase meaning, "Let's not get carried away," or "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill."

"The bakery truck isn't going to come to our neighborhood anymore after the end of April, because the bakery is going out of business!* I'm not going to survive without my Wednesday morning fresh rolls and bread! Life as I know it is over!"
"Now, now, leave the church in the village. There's a bakery in the grocery store, and you go there four times a week." 

That's our Dorfkirche (village church) in Bildechingen. We're going to leave it there.

*This is true, by the way. No more rolling bakery for me, stopping on our street right in front of our neighbors every Wednesday morning. I've been planning my Wednesday morning routine around that bakery truck for more than a year! The baker and his wife are retiring, and their kids don't want to take over the business. Darn kids.

Alles im grünen Bereich

This is what Germans say when everything is going all right. "Everything is in the green area." This is a very common phrase, as I hear people say it, I read it in the newspaper, I hear it on the news and in TV shows... It's nice to know that things are going so well so often.

Look at that! Everything is in the green area in Bildechingen today!
(at least with the fruit- and garden club)

einen Kater haben

Sometimes everything is not in the green area, like when you wake up with a tomcat. That's right, no one wants a tomcat, especially since the only one to blame when you have one is yourself. You could have avoided getting a tomcat if you had balanced your alcohol intake last night with water. A tomcat (Kater), in this respect, is a hangover.

A Kater is also an actual tomcat, like our neighbors' cat here, who was riled up because he lives on the second floor balcony, and a stray Kater was prowling through our yard. I think he's trying to look big. And scary. He didn't seem to appreciate that Martin and I were snapping pictures of him and mooning about how cute he was.

But of course one needs to be careful when talking about one's tomcat. The sentence "Ich habe einen Kater" ("I have a tomcat") means both that and "I have a hangover." This could lead to amusing misunderstandings.

Since I do not have a tomcat of either kind, I am enjoying the fact that everything is in the green area, I have no reason to have shit and don't have to deal with students building it, and although there's some trouble brewing back in Wisconsin, I'm going to leave the church in the village for now, wait it out, and have some tea.

Happy Valentine's Day, by the way!

No comments:

Post a Comment