Category Archives: Idiomatic Monday

Idiomatic Monday: Wurst Will Be Wurst

I suppose it doesn’t take much of a grasp on semiotics to realize that culture will, come hell or high water, weasel its way into language, thus spawning idioms, but I’m here to tell you anyway.  For instance, what springs to mind when you think of America?  Maybe I’m coming out of left field, but if I were to take a swing at it, I’d say baseball.  (See what I did there?  Seriously, there’s a wikipedia page about this).  German is a whole ‘nother ballgame: when you think of the Vaterland, do you think of, say, this?:

Somewhere in that ballpark?

If so, you’re not way off base (alright, done with this) because happily, beer and wurst has had the baseball effect on the German language.  Take, for example:

An ihm ist Hopfen und Malz verloren
Hops and malt are lost on him = he doesn’t have a clue

Das ist nicht mein Bier
That’s not my beer = that’s not my cup of tea

Es ist mir Wurst
It’s sausage to me = it’s all the same to me

Seinen Senf dazugeben
To give his mustard = to put in his two cents

Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst
It’s about the sausage now = it’s do or die

In der Kürze liegt die Würze
Rick Steves translates this phrase this way: “In the shortness lies the tastiness” regarding the miniature Nuremberg sausages, but that’s an awkward translation, because really, who talks that way?  If you’re going to translate a colloquialism, translate it colloquially… so clearly:  “Boy howdy, these wee sausages pack a punch.”  (Incidentally, I also saw this phrase screen printed on a pair of men’s underwear in a tacky souvenir shop, which turned me off of the German language forever).

and the favorite of German professors everywhere:

Spiel nicht die beleidigte Leberwurst
Don’t play the offended liver sausage: don’t get your panties in a twist like I just did about a Rick Steves translation of a sausage saying.

The Very Beleidigte Leberwurst

Which leads us, ultimately, to this question at the intersection of food and baseball:

If the moon was made of spare ribs, wouldja eat it?


Idiomatic Monday: The Carnival Edition

Used to be, I thought the best sorts of days were the ones you spent on the river, so you’d wake up and immediately hop into your swimsuit.  I was wrong.  Clearly, the best sorts of days are the ones when you wake up and  hop immediately into your pirate suit.

My 6:30 a.m. pirate face is a fearsome thing to behold

And then spend the day at parades and eating doughnuts, called Kreppel around these parts (or Berliner, of “ich bin ein Berliner” fame).  I managed three and a half of the things yesterday, and very little else.  At any rate, today is Rosenmontag, Rose Monday, the day when Carnival season really culminates.  And when I say “Carnival Season,” I mean the period between November 11 and tomorrow.  You know, that season.

Anyway, I’m going to spend my day pillaging and plundering in Mainz, where the second-biggest Carnival celebration in Germany is held, but before I head over, I felt I needed to commemorate this day first by sharing a song with you, the sort of link-arms-with-your-drunken-neighbor sort of song, the crowd-rousing sort of song that’s perfect for days like today.

Am Rosenmontag bin ich geboren,
am Rosenmontag in Mainz am Rhein,
bis Aschermittwoch bin ich verloren,
denn Rosenmontagskinder müssen närrisch sein!


On Rose Monday, I was born
On Rose Monday, In Mainz am Rhein
Until Ash Wednesday, I’m lost (also: doomed)
Because Rose Monday children have to be foolish

Idiomatic Monday: The Second

I had a dream the other night that a German professor from the U of A emailed me to ask me the translation of Eiermontag.  “Egg… Monday?”  I thought, bewildered.  What could an Egg Monday be?  Is that part of the week-long Karneval celebration?  Hey, she’s the professor!  What’s she doing asking me?  I was stumped.

Then I was ushered into a room at my school here for a meeting with some of the administrators, when that room detached from the rest of the building and started rolling down the street.  My mind went into panic-mode: What the heck! Why does no one seem to notice that the conference room is rolling away from the building!  I don’t know my way back to the school!  I don’t have my phone!  I can’t call anyone to come pick me up!  What!  The!  Heck!

Then I woke up, at which point I thought, “Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to figure that one out.”

Anyway, not the point.  I went to Aldi today to buy some groceries and some more minutes for my phone and internet.  I got back to the house, and was unlocking my door when my bike began to tip.  I dove, but no dice.  Normally, this wouldn’t have been such a problem, except, as it were, my basket was filled with eggs.  Ugh.  Still, through my frustration at egg-covered groceries and a slightly dented fender, I couldn’t help thinking smugly to myself, “So this is an Egg Monday,” and I felt pretty clever, if a bit sticky.

Then I tried to upload my new minutes to my internet account, and it worked for a while – and then zap, like that, it was gone.  All 25 Euro, no internet, no phone, just gone.  I hoofed back on down to Aldi to give them a piece of my mind, only to remember that actually I’m way too polite to give pieces of my mind and I end up more like: “Sorry, don’t mean to be a bother, but you see, my German is terrible, but I think there may have been a slight mistake, and if it just doesn’t trouble you too much – oh gosh, I don’t mean to hold up the line!  – but it’s just one of those days, you know?  One of those Egg Mondays?  Heh heh?  No? Okay anyway…” and so it goes.  I ended up talking to some guy on the Aldi help line, and truth be told, I wasn’t even that frustrated that it turned out to be a user error (ugh) because I understood what he was telling me.  I can talk to German customer support, I can do anything!

Or so I’ve always believed.

Anyway, finally, we reach this week’s saying.  It’s nothing too clever, just a reliable go-to that seems to sum up the day:

So ist das Leben.

It’s the German c’est la vie: sometimes all your eggs break, sometimes you lose all your money to user error, but sometimes you find your German’s improving, and sometimes your boyfriend sends you a bouquet for Valentine’s Day even though he’s always been in the Valentine’s Day-is-for-schmucks camp before.

Happy Egg Monday, and happy Valentine’s Day to all you schmucks out there.

Milestones and Idiomatic Mondays

Last night, something remarkable happened: at the stroke of midnight, my time in Germany reached its half-way point.  149 days gone, 149 to go.  I feel sort of obligated to reflect back in some meaningful way… but I’ve been keeping this blog precisely so I wouldn’t have to do that.  So instead…

I’m going to take this moment to introduce a few “featurettes” to Denglish: first, Idiomatic Mondays (I thought, very briefly, of calling them “Idiomanic Mondays,” but soon decided that inducing those groans just wasn’t worth the effort), in which I introduce a weekly German idiom/proverb/saying because nothing’s funnier than a direct translation of an idiom from a foreign language; and second, some yet-to-be-named Wednesday night recipe (all I can think of are strained alliterative titles like “Wednesday Whistle Wettin'” and “Hump Day Hash” which I like because it sounds vaguely dirty), because Beth and I have begun to cook together once a week because we’re both beginning to tire of eating rice alone in our rooms, night after night.  So, thought I might throw the recipes we try your way.  Sorry boys, they’ll be vegetarian.

So, to kick things off, a proverb that bridges the two, and which I like because my brother used to have a novelty tee with this phrase printed on it, it’s just that clever:

Man ist, was man isst.
(Man is what he eats.)

The funny thing here, though, is that the conjugated form to “to eat” (essen) is “isst” and the conjugated form of “to be” (sein) is “ist“, which, conveniently enough, sound identical… the joke, of course, is that when spoken, this proverb is simultaneously “Man is what he is” and “Man is what he eats.”  Out-punned, English language.


If this phrase held, I would look a little less "fresh-from-the-garden-y," and a little more Nutella-y.