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Playing the Insulted Sausage, Having Pig and More: 17 Funny German Sayings
If Latin is the language of enlightenment, and French the language of love, what does that make German?
Well, to start with, the language of swine enthusiasts.
Pigs are significant in German culture, and common sayings are littered with mentions of them.
This and other cultural quirks make for some pretty funny English translations of things people say in Germany every day .
So how is all this convenient for your German learning ?
Well, although idioms and pithy expressions aren’t the first thing that come up in a textbook, they’re one of the more fun parts of learning a new tongue.
At their best, they provide an insight into the people and what the culture values. And if nothing else, they often sound hilarious.
Either way, there’s no better way to showcase your German skills and impress the natives than by rattling off an appropriately-timed saying, and you’ll find plenty potential ones in this post.
But first, let’s take a quick look into that whole weird pig obsession.
German Sayings: Where Pork and Language Come Together
As mentioned, pigs get a bad rap in English. They’re associated with smelliness, untidiness and greed. They’re used as an insult for those who eat too much and men who behave like chauvinists. Even after “Charlotte’s Web” and “Babe,” they’re still the least respected animal on the farm.
Not so in Germany.
If language is a reflection of culture, then there’s no doubt about the swine’s place in the Fatherland. To be lucky in Germany is Schwein haben, or “to have pig.”
If you don’t know a person well enough to forgo formalities, you can tell them that you have “not yet kept pigs together” by saying Wir haben zusammen noch keine Schweine gehütet!
There are supposedly 1,200 kinds of sausage in Germany. There might be just as many idioms involving it.
So without further ado, let’s start exploring some pig-related, other-animal-related and just plain funny German sayings.
For your instruction and amusement, here’s a list of sayings that are sure to bring a smile when translated to English, if not a downright laughing fit.
Funny Phrasings: 17 Common German Sayings That Are Hilarious in English
1. Da liegt der Hund begraben. (That’s where the dog’s buried.)
OK, so maybe after that build-up it’s not fair to start with a saying that’s not about pigs, but at least it’s animal-related.
Normally dead dogs are an occasion for sadness and lost childhood innocence, but the Germans use the subject toward more matter-of-fact means.
Translating as “That’s the heart of the matter,” it may sound funny to us, but in German it’s a useful sentence to show that you really know what the situation is about.
2. Kein Schwein war da. (There weren’t any pigs there.)
For the rest of civilization, the absence of swine is a prerequisite of a good place. Not so in sausage-savoring Germany. If there were no pigs, it means that nobody was there. A pigless-party is the worst kind in Germany.
3. Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen. (Where fox and hare say goodnight to one another.)
Do they kiss before going to bed? Is it a secret rendezvous? Do their partners suspect it?
We’ll never know, because where the fox and hare say goodnight to each other is in the middle of nowhere. While we might have relatives that live “out in the sticks” or “out in the boondocks,” the Germans have a more poetic way of designating a remote area.
4. Das ist mir Wurst. (That’s sausage to me.)
A very artful way of saying that you don’t care at all, this is considered even stronger than Das ist egal (That doesn’t matter). Still, a little ironic, because we know how much Germans actually care about sausage…
5. Sie hat einen Vogel. (Literally, “She has a bird.”)
America has crazy cat ladies. In Germany, it’s the people with birds you have to look out for. According to some sources , the saying comes from an old folk belief that the mentally ill had small animals living in their heads. Hence, saying someone has a bird is the equivalent of calling them insane.
6. Sie hat nicht alle Tassen im Schrank. (She doesn’t have all her cups in the cupboard.)
As long as we’re thinking of ways to call someone crazy, here’s another one, this one sometimes suggesting a lack of intelligence. Obviously, Germans being a prepared and orderly people, anyone who does not keep all of their drinking vessels in the appropriately designated place in the kitchen is not right in the head. Let’s not even get started on the silverware, which has you mixing up your genders to boot…
7. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. (I only understand “train station.”)
I’ll admit, I don’t know the word for “train station” in very many languages, but apparently the Germans do (perhaps so they can berate the trains for not being timely). Regardless, this idiom comes in handy when you don’t really understand something, meaning the same as “It’s all Greek to me.”
8. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei. (Everything has an end. Only the sausage has two.)
If you’re going to say that all good things must end, you might as well do it with style and in a way that your countrymen are going to understand. And who can argue with the logic?
9. Sie spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst. (She’s playing the insulted sausage.)
Is there any better way to say that a person is all worked up? Why have a cow when you can act like a wronged piece of pork? Maybe she was told she had a bird…
10. Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau. (My English is under all pig.)
Pigs, although lucky and conducive to a good party atmosphere, are not that great for language learning. To say in German “My English is under all pig” is to suggest that it’s really bad. (To say it in English proves its own point.)
11. Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof. (Life is no pony farm.)
Life isn’t a rose garden. Apparently it’s also not a place where you can take your kids for rides. As you can tell, Germany is a country of both equestrian enthusiasts and realists.
12. Ins Gras beißen. (To bite into the grass.)
Purportedly tracing back to the “Iliad” and “Aeneid,” this term was originally associated with the death of soldiers. In English and French one would say “bite the dust,” the phrase perhaps being coined in drier weather. Either way, the person it was said about did not have pig.
13. Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier. (To sleep like a woodchuck.)
It appears that chucking wood (if a woodchuck could chuck wood) is a really tiring activity—hey, they have to snooze all winter. As a result, to sleep like a woodchuck is to sleep well.
14. Das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen. (You can tell that to your grandmother.)
This saying fits if you’re convinced the person who has just told you something is lying or over-exaggerating. You might think grandmas are too sweet and kind to lie to, or even that you grandma might be naive enough to believe you – either way, you dare them to pass it on to their grandma if they say it’s really true!
15. Nul acht funfzehn (So-so)
Alright, so this isn’t technically a complete saying or so funny in the English translation, but if you know the story behind it, it’s hilarious. Coming from the typical rifle given out during WWI (the 08-15), the numbers have come to be a clever code to describe something mediocre . Whether a date or a score on a test, nul acht funfzehn indicates the results were rather “standard issue” and nothing to write home about.
16. Die Kirche im Dorf lassen. (To leave the church in the village.)
I don’t know where else you would take the church, but it’s universally agreed upon that its place is in the village. Being told to leave it there is to be admonished to not get carried away. Besides, there are strict building ordinances in Germany.
17. Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr. (What little Johnny can’t learn, old John will never learn.)
An old dog can’t learn new tricks, and neither can John. That’s why in Germany one often sees old people walking the streets in the middle of the day…there’s nothing new for them to do.
Now that you’re through chuckling at these handy German phrases , you can put them to work in earning the respect of the natives and making your language learning authentic .
Spice up the conversation with a little idiomatic color and put things in terms Germans understand. The sausage may have two ends, but learning German doesn’t have any.
And, for good measure, you might want to get yourself a pig.
Ryan Dennis was a Fulbright Scholar and previously taught at Pädagogische Hochschule Schwäbisch Gmünd. In addition to hating ketchup, British spelling and violence, he writes The Milk House —the only literary column about dairy farming.
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50 Amusing German Phrases That Will Brighten Your Day
Can you get through this amusing list of German Phrases translated into English without laughing your ass off?
Germans aren’t known for their humour. When it comes to German grammar, you can’t help but laugh at its complex rules and figuring out which article to use for each case. It’s so confusing that there’s no other way to express your frustration but laugh. These German phrases will have you laughing for less stressful reasons.
German idioms are a constant source of hilarity, especially when directly translated into English. So, in honour of German speakers and learners , I thought I’d share this extensive list of the more common German phrases that many native speakers would use every day and probably didn’t even realise were all that funny…until now.
Let’s take a look at some German phrases you won’t see the same way again.
P.S. If you’re reading this on your phone and can’t see the last column, turn it to landscape. For some reason tables aren’t mobile friendly. Sorry!
|Now it goes around the sausage||Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst||All or nothing|
|There you are on the woodway||Du bist auf dem Holzweg||You are completely wrong|
|My hair stands up to the mountain||Mir stehen die Haare zu Berge||I’ve got goosebumps|
|I understand only train station||Ich versteh nur Bahnhof||I have no idea what you are saying|
|Sorry but my English is under all pig||Tut mir leid, aber mein Englisch ist under aller Sau||Sorry, but my English is just the worst|
|I think I spider||Ich glaub, ich spinner||I believe I’m dreaming|
|The Devil I will do!||Den Teufel werd ich tun!||I will NOT do that!|
|Come on, jump over your shadow||Komm schon, spring über deinen Schatten||Get out of your comfort zone|
|You walk me animally on the cookie||Du gehts mir tierisch auf den Keks||You are getting on my nerves, Massively|
|Holla the wood fairy||Holla die Waidfee||Well, that’s unexpected|
|I see black for you||Ich seh schwarz für dich||I don’t see any good news coming your way|
|You are such a fear-rabbit||Du bist so ein Angsthase||You are so easily scared|
|You might tick incorrectly||Sie ticken doch ganz nicht richtig||You are stupid|
|You are missing cups in your cupboard||Du hast nicht mehr alle Tassen im Schrank||You’re crazy|
|You have a bird||Du hast doch einen Vogel||You are crazy|
|She had a circleruntogetherbreak||Sie hatten einen Kreislaufzusammenbruch||She fainted|
|I fall from all clouds||Ich falle aus allen Wolken||I have not expected this|
|No one can reach me the water||Niemand kann mir das Wasser reichen||Nobody is better than me|
|You are the yellow from the egg||Du bist das Gelbe vom Ei||You are all I’m looking for|
|It runs me ice cold down my back||Es laûft mir eiskalt den Rücken runter||My blood runs cold|
|I’m foxdevilswind||Ich bin fuchsteufelswild||I’m super mad|
|That makes me nobody so quickly after||Das macht mir so schnell keiner nach||No one will copy that so easily|
|Now we have the salad||Nun haben wir den Salat||Well, here we have what we deserve|
|I think my pig whistles||Ich glaud mein Schwein pfeift||I believe I’m dreaming|
|You can slide my back down||Du kannst Mir den Buckel runter rutschen||Leave me alone / get out of here|
|My dear Mr Singing Club||Mein lieber Herr Gesangsverein||Impressive|
|That goes off like Schmitz’ cat||Das geht ab wie Schmitz Katze||That escalated quickly|
|I laugh me broken||Ich lach mich kaputt||You got to be kidding me|
|You will come in devil’s kitchen||Du kommst in Teufelsküche||You’re in deep trouble|
|The motive holies the means||Das Motiv heiligt die Mittel||Anything’s a dildo if you’re brave enough|
|I make me out of the dust||Ich mach mich aus dem Staub||I’m leaving|
|You have a crack in your dish||Du hast nen Sprung in der Schüssel||You’re crazy|
|Now we sit here in the ink||Nun sitzen wir hier in der Tinte||We’re in trouble|
|Now the oven is out||Nun ist der Ofen aus||Game over. Nothing else to expect|
|I have now really my nose full||Ich hab jetzt echt de Nase voll||Enough of that bullshit|
|You luck mushroom||Du Glüchspilz||You lucky man|
|I get the crisis||Ich krieg die Krise||I’m going mad|
|You’re a pea counter||Du bist ein Erbsenzähler||You are very nit picky|
|Dead said live longer||Totgesagte leben länger||Don’t write it off too early|
|I stand on the tube||Ich steh auf dem Schlauch||I have no idea what is going on|
|Everything for the cat||Alles für die Katz’||All for nothing|
|A stone falls from my heart||Mir fällt ein Stein vom Herzen||I’m relieved|
|Now it punches Thirteen||Nun schlägt’s aber dreizehn||That’s enough|
|That fits on no cowskin||Das passt auf keine Kuhhaut||Your lies are unbelieveable|
|You can take poison on that||Darauf kannst du Gift nehmen||You can bet on it|
|You helped me no meter further||Du hast mir keinen Meter weitergeholfen||Your advice was a waste of time|
|There you are looking stupid out of the laundry||Da guckst du dumm aus der Wäsche||You didn’t expect that, no?|
|There the dog goes crazy in the pan||Da wird er Hund ind er Pfanne verrückt||That’s unbelievable|
|Put a tooth on it||Leg einen Zahn drauf||Be quicker|
|Lid down, monkey dead||Klapp zu, Affe tot||That’s it|
For more idiomatic expressions click here . If you’re travelling to German, get my free German travel phrase guide.
Want more hilarious German expressions? Watch this!
Ready to improve your German? Visit my handy language resource guide .
Plus, if you want to know how the experts learn languages, I asked 11 top polyglots to share their language learning secrets . Find out how they start learning a new language, overcome plateaus, and maintain multiple languages.
Over to you!
Which one of these hilarious German expressions is your favourite? Do you know any other German idioms?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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Michele writes and blogs about languages and travel. What separates her from other linguistics is her ability to explain complex topics in a no-nonsense, straightforward manner. She doesn’t promise the world. But always delivers step-by-step strategies you can immediately implement. Get her free guide to access 78 FREE Online Dictionaries to Learn Your Target Language.
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