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Why Everyone Should Translate German Figures Of Speech

Translating German figures of speech into English was fun long before Flula started doing it.

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Because German sayings will boost your appetite. If you are not a vegetarian...


Ok, what is up with the sausages in German figures of speech? Since most of these have been around for a while, it must be true that the sausage is one of Germany's most cherished staple. Take for example the common saying "Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei" (transl. everything comes to an end, only the sausage has two). Here, the speaker would like to highlight the transience of everything. Well, I guess the sausage outlives everyone.

Another good meat reference is the popular "beleidigte Leberwurst," which literally means offended liver sausage and figuratively a miffed person. Can anyone tell me what an offended liver sausage looks like? Perhaps a butcher would know.

Because you start hallucinating and wondering if you've landed on the planet of strange animals.


"Schwein haben," to have a pig in German doesn't mean you'll cuddle up with a cute piglet. I don't at meat, so any other outcomes are not acceptable. No, having a pig simply means that you're a lucky person. Rarely do pigs have pigs if you look at it figuratively.

Not so lucky is the person who uses the phrase "Zum Mäusemelken" (transl. milking mice), which describes an absurd or exasperating situation. Doing taxes in Germany sometimes feels like milking mice.

Speaking of absurd, "Man hat schon Pferde vor der Apotheke kotzen sehen" (transl. one has seen horses puke in front of the pharmacy) refers to an experience that is out of this world. Apparently, horses do not throw up very often. I am no expert though.

Because they remind you of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, which is better than any horror movie.

By Ricardo Maragna, Andrew Lang (Editor), H.J. Ford and http://G.P.Jacomb Hood (illustrators) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons / Via

Remember that movie with the girl in the well, the one that prompted people to throw away old videotapes in case some creepy girl decided to crawl out of their TV? When the child has fallen into the well ("das Kind ist in den Brunnen gefallen") - apparently this used to happen a lot in the old days - Germans are speaking of the fact that their greatest fear has come true. Let's hope that child won't crawl out of the TV the next time.

Another nightmarish image, "Jemandem die Daumenschrauben anziehen oder ansetzen" (transl. to tighten or secure the screws on someone's thumbs), sounds worse than it is. Thankfully nowadays this just translates into pressing someone for information.

Because they are beautiful metaphors...

By José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons / Via

If you ever wanted someone to disappear from your life, you might consider this figure of speech: "Jemanden zum Mond schießen" (transl. to shoot someone to the moon) almost sounds like you are doing that person a favor; however, in this case you are trying to get rid of someone the rude way. Moon figures of speech are popular in the German language. There is also "hinter dem Mond leben" (transl. living behind the moon), which means the same as living under a rock, not being aware of what is happening in the world. I personally think living behind the moon sounds fantastical, sort of like the man in the moon. I'd like to try it someday.

An adorable figure of speech that reminds me of lullabies and going to sleep is "Seine Schäfchen im Trockenen haben" (transl. to have all your sheep in the dry), which fittingly refers to the act of being safe.

Because the German language is already difficult. You need to prepare.

By Photocapy (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons / Via

If, after all these translations, you are now convinced that Germans eat too much meat and are out of touch with their surroundings, reconsider. We like to be as specific as possible when expressing our feelings; figures of speech are the perfect tool for that.

I'll leave you with this handy expression for your next visit. Simply tell a German "Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof" (transl. I only understand train station), and they will be impressed. Unfortunately, it also means that you are utterly confused, and since Germans are known for their cautious demeanor, they might never talk to you again. Good luck!

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