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Germans and Their Love of Food Idioms.

When I was at WorldCon, chatting with one customer, she answered a question on how much she knows about a specific topic with “not a sausage” – meaning “exactly nothing”. That was an expression I had never heard before, and there ensued a short but fun conversation about where it came from (she got it off someone else, but it seems to be rather rare) and that Germans use sausage in a different way in their (very common) idiom: Das ist mir Wurst (it’s sausage to me, meaning “I don’t care”).

Which reminded me of a much longer conversation that we had during one dinner at the last Textile Forum, resulting in the insight that Germans have a lot of expressions that concern food. And when I say “a lot”, I mean a huge lot.

So I thought it might be fun to go and collect some of them here, and maybe even get some input from people in other places, with other languages, if you have similar expressions – or not.

Here you go. Some German food idioms. The German phrase, the literal translation into English, and an explanation.

Das ist mir Wurst. It’s sausage to me. I don’t care.
Das ist nicht mein Bier. That’s not my beer. It’s not my problem.
eine beleidigte Leberwurst sein to be an insulted liver sausage (liver paté, or sausage with liver in it) to be easily offended, or more offended than warranted by the circumstances
seinen Senf dazugeben to add one’s mustard state one’s opinion about something (unasked and usually also not too welcome)
mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen this person is not good to eat cherries with it’s hard to get along with this person
seine Brötchen verdienen earn one’s bread rolls make money for living/work
das macht das Kraut nicht fett this doesn’t make the cabbage greasy it’s not accounting for much in the overall picture
die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln the most stupid farmer has the largest potatoes usually said when someone gets a lot of money without effort
nicht die Bohne not a bean not at all
Tomaten auf den Augen haben to have tomatoes on the eyes to be blind/not see something that should be obvious
Petersilie in den Ohren haben to have parsley in the ears the audio equivalent to the tomatoes – to not hear something
ein armes Würstchen sein to be a poor sausage poor devil/poor thing
der schaut, als hätten ihm die Hühner das Brot weggefressen that one has a look as if the chickens ate his bread to look helpless or perplexed
sich ein Ei legen lay oneself an egg to dig a hole for yourself
für’n Apfel und ein Ei for an apple and an egg for very little money
dumm wie Bohnenstroh dumb as bean straw dumb as a post
es wird nichts so heiß gegessen, wie es gekocht wird nothing is eaten as hot as it’s being cooked it won’t be as bad as it seems at first
der satten Maus schmeckt das süße Mehl bitter the satiated mouse finds the sweet flour tastes bitter things lose their appeal when you have had enough of them
wie Kraut und Rüben like cabbage and turnips completely dis-ordered
das ist nicht das Gelbe vom Ei that’s not the yolk of the egg that’s not the best situation/solution
die Rosinen aus dem Kuchen picken to pick the raisins out of the cake only take the best bits and leave the rest

Funny how many there are, right? And I have probably forgotten quite a few. Let me know if I did (and which ones) – and let me know if there’s similar food-related idioms in your (non-German) language!

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7 Responses to Germans and Their Love of Food Idioms.

  1. Beatrix says:

    “sich das größte Stück vom Kuchen nehmen/abschneiden”

    Das ist wohl so ähnlich wie das mit den Rosinen.

  2. Beatrix says:

    “um den heißen Brei herumreden” = eine Sache nicht offen und sachlich ansprechen

    “Saure-Gurken-Zeit” https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauregurkenzeit

  3. Heather says:

    In this context, does ‘dumb’ mean ‘unable to speak’ or ‘stupid’ please?

    In English there is ‘deaf as a post’, picking the best bits and leaving the rest is ‘cherry picking’ and you ‘earn dough’ [money].

    There’s also ‘sausage’ and ‘silly sausage’ as a term of endearment.

  4. Harma says:

    Heather, it is supposed to be ‘dumb’ as in stupid.

    ‘Appels met peren vergelijken’, comparing apples with pears, trying to compare non comparable items or concepts.
    ‘Daar komt een schip met zure appels aan’, here comes a ship with sour apples, there is a rainstorm coming (this one is from the north only).
    ‘Met de gebakken peren zitten’, being stuck with the fried pears, when one has done something that went completely wrong and leaves one in a big mess.
    ‘Zoete broodjes bakken’, baking little sweet buns, being overly friendly to get what you want.
    ‘De kool en de geit sparen’, rescuing the cabbage and the goat, trying to find a middleway to save everything and everyone.

  5. Beth says:

    Instead of comparing apples with pears, in English it’s apples and oranges.
    “Bun in the oven” means pregnant.
    “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” means to make the best of a bad situation
    “Trim the fat” means to eliminate excess or eliminate waste.
    “Chew the fat” means to talk (generally about trivial topics).
    “Give them the sausage, don’t grind the meat!” is advice given to technical experts presenting to executive managers. It means to give the summary or abstract, not the whole detailed paper.

  6. “Getting to the meat of the matter” (used to refer to getting to the important part–kind of like the “yolk of the egg” expression in German.

  7. Katrin says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments – I vastly enjoyed learning about more food idioms, especially the English and Dutch ones! Pregnant Germans, by the way, don’t have a bun in the oven, but a roast. We don’t get to the meat of the matter, though – the idiom for that is non-food-related. While the “um den heißen Brei herumreden” that Beatrix mentioned is the opposite, not getting to the meat of the matter, by way of talking around the hot porridge…

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