German Idioms Decoded (plus potatoes)


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!

Reality Shows Renamed

Keepin' it Real
This is what these shows should be called and what they are REALLY about. This article is a real time-saver!

The Bachelor — “Everything That’s Wrong with Society”
A gaggle of loathsome female archtypes use their breast implants to gain the favour of some pathetic slag in order to win a quick annulment and .00009 seconds of pseudo-fame.

Jersey Shore — “At Least You’re Not These Assholes”
A group of human-like apes dressed in club clothing drink hard liquor, rub genitals and throw feces at each other in an attempt to make its viewers thankful for their own ability to distinguish between literature and cuss-words sprayed in piss on the side of a public building.

Kim and Kourtney take New York — “Who Let These Ninnies Get Famous?”
Two useless twats compete to be the most vacuous female ever born by seeing who can complain more about things people in the third world have never heard of.

Miami Ink — “Defy Your Parents”:
A group of inky losers prevent others from ever getting 9 to 5 jobs.

Toddlers in Tiaras — “America’s Next Underage Sex Symbol”
Psychotic mothers provide closeted pedophiles free access to legal child pornography.

Pimp My Ride — “Penis Envy”
A hack rapper helps young men announce to the world that they have abnormally small genitals.

Ghost Hunters — “Yup… Still No Ghosts”
Paranormal “experts” sit in abandoned buildings and whisper “Did you hear that?” to each other for 47 minutes straight.

So You Think You Can Dance — “Yes, They Can All Dance”
A group of celebrated dancers no one has ever heard of compliment other, lesser known dancers, until at least two thirds of them shed tears of joy and are never heard from again.

Teen Mom — “Too Dumb for Condoms”
Delinquent children rub genitals in order to produce more delinquent children and are shocked to discover that babies are harder than grade eight math.

Big Brother — “Like Rehab but Sadder”
A group of depressing D-list celebrities agree to check themselves out of their current rehab facilities and accept a few hundred dollars to further publicly degrade themselves.

Hell’s Kitchen — “Public Flogging with Sass on the Side”
Aspiring chefs are verbally flagellated by a sadistic cuisinier.

The Biggest Loser — “Fat Shaming”
Obese people are humiliated in an attempt to correct irreparable self-confidence issues that caused them to become obese in the first place.

America’s Next Top Model — “America’s Next Ugly Cry”
Undernourished girls attempt to avoid bursting into tears while trying to impress a former supermodel.

American Idol — “Hasn’t Every US Citizen Sung for You Yet?”
Former popstar judges scrape the bottom of the US talent barrel looking for the next completely irrelevant sensation.

The Voice — “We are NOT American Idol”
A totally different group of former popstars scrape the bottom of the same US talent barrel looking for the next completely irrelevant sensation.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians — “God Save Us All”
Proof that the apocalypse truly is nigh (and has been since 2007).

[Resurrected from my old blog; originally posted on January 9, 2012. Now revamped and updated with today’s latest reality shows!]