When I was a little kid my grandmother (or as we called her “Oma”) taught me my first German word: Kartoffel, which means “potato”. At the time, I had no idea how extremely beloved these tubers were to Germans, so in hindsight it makes sense that would be the first word I learned.
After living in Germany for six and a half years as a grownup, I discovered that the only things Germans love more than potatoes are puzzling figures of speech. One such example goes: Die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln! which literally translates to: “The dumbest farmers have the fattest potatoes”.
Over the years, my love of strange German idioms also grew strong and deep like a potato. Here’s a list of some of my (non-potato themed) favourites along with some examples of how to properly use them in English.
- Lass die Kirche im Dorf!
Literally: Leave the church in the village!
In other words: Don’t get carried away.
Example: You don’t want to eat your weight in potatoes? Leave the church in the village!
- Die Arschkarte ziehen
Literally: Pulling the ass card
In other words: Having bad luck
Example: We’re out of potatoes?! We really pulled the ass card today!
- Ich hau mich auf’s Ohr!
Literally: I’m going to throw myself on my ear!
In other words: I’m going to bed.
Example: I’m exhausted from all the potato eating. I think I’ll throw myself on my ear!
- Dumm wie Dosenbrot!
Literally: Dumb as tinned bread!
In other words: Really really dumb.
Example: That guy hates potatoes? He’s dumb as canned bread!
- Eier in der Hose haben
Literally: Having eggs in the pants
In other words: Being brave
Example: Some people like a man with eggs in his pants. Personally, I love a man with potatoes in his pockets!
- Das passt wie die Faust aufs Auge!
Literally: It fits like a fist fits an eye!
In other words: Perfect
Example: A potato in the pot is like a fist fits an eye!
- Pi mal Daumen
Literally: Pi times thumb
In other words: Approximately
Example: Pi times thumb is how much I need potatoes in my life.
- Da haben wir den Salat!
Literally: There we have the salad!
In other words: It’s all fucked up
Example: No potato salad? Now we have the salad there!
- Seinen Senf zu etwas abgeben
Literally: Give your mustard to something
In other words: Give your (unsolicited) two cents
Example: I’ll give my mustard to your potato salad recipe: It’s potatastic!
- Im falschen Film sein
Literally: Being in the wrong movie
In other words: Finding yourself in a strange or confusing situation
Example: Carrots for dinner? I feel like I’m in the wrong movie.
- Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen
Literally: Playing the offended liverwurst
In other words: Being adorably offended
Example: You act like an offended liverwurst when you go into potato withdrawal.
- Den Löffel abgeben
Literally: Giving up the spoon
In other words: To die
Example: He gave up the spoon! And the potato, too!