German Idioms

Be aware of the following idiom! If a German person ever calls you a bottle, don’t think you have a long neck or a nice figure. Being a bottle simply means that you’re a loser; perhaps we’re speaking of an empty bottle here.

 

I recently moved to Austria to translate poetry on a Fulbright Fellowship. Being immersed in a German-speaking culture again for the first time since childhood, I can’t help but notice how some common German idioms translate into English.

 

The next time you find yourself at a party surrounded by strangers, think about spicing up the conversation by literally translating a couple of German idioms. While the following idioms are common expressions in German, they could very well pass as poetry in English—as long as you don’t mind poems about sausages, liver, rabbits, pigs, and beer.

 

As an example, people often tell me that I have an extra sausage for holding dual citizenship. Can you guess the idiom’s meaning? For a German person having an extra sausage, of course, means to have an advantage. The more sausages, the better!

 

Germans love their sausage, and so it is no surprise that many idioms include meat, in particular pork. If you’re offended by something, you become an offended liver sausage; and if you’re on a lucky streak, you have pig.

 

That one was simple, but consider the next one (think beer).

 

If someone tells you, “that’s not your beer,” and you are not even drinking a beer, and neither is your friend, you might wonder if you should start. Germans feel strongly about their beer, and therefore touching someone else’s beer represents the same indecency as putting your nose into someone’s private business. If you have a nosy friend inquiring about your monthly salary, assertively tell them: it’s not your beer. You need not be having this conversation over beer; it goes well with coffee and strudel, too.

 

Be aware of the following idiom! If a German person ever calls you a bottle, don’t think you have a long neck or a nice figure. Being a bottle simply means that you’re a loser; perhaps we’re speaking of an empty bottle here.

 

Before I begin talking a pork chop on our readers’ knees, I will conclude with a list of the most important German idioms. Memorize them, make your friends laugh, or impress a German; I’m really not interested in the bean.

 

to talk a pork chop on someone’s knee – to talk someone’s ear off
to have an extra sausage – to have an advantage
offended liver sausage – someone who is offended
to understand only train station – to understand nothing at all
not interested in the bean – to not care at all
to walk on someone’s cookie – to get on someone’s nerves
to have a pig – to be lucky
my name is rabbit – I know nothing; I am not involved
it’s about the sausage – it’s now or never
that’s not your beer – that’s none of your business
to be a bottle – to be a loser