Funny German Expressions: How to Say Something “Makes a Lot of Sense”

“Wait… German doesn’t make any sense at all!” — Image Credit: David Goehring ( — Subject to CC 2.0 License

My wife is a very busy woman. She’s a Gymnasium teacher here in Hannover, Germany, and she works long hours both at school and at home. She puts in some serious overtime grading tests and organizing her lesson plans each night — in part because she’s German, and obsessive attention to detail seems to have a stranglehold on her DNA — but also because she’s just really passionate about her subject. (She teaches philosophy, and she has a major she-boner for Plato.)

This is all great and wonderful. I’m very proud of her. But with so much dedication to work, sometimes the little tasks in life are put on hold — like writing thank you cards after the holidays. Personally, I like to get this over with as soon as humanly possible. We’re talking January 15th here, at the latest. My wife, on the other hand, approaches thank you cards with an attitude closer to, Fuck it, either my awesome American husband will do it for me, or they’ll just write themselves.

So after the holidays last year, when the thank you cards had been sitting on her desk for like 2 months even though I’d already written them and all she had to do was sign them, god dammit, she finally got around to it. She’d taken the time to write some really meaningful, thoughtful words of gratitude, and signed them all with a flourish. Then, when she handed them back to me, she declared:

“Sometimes I take forever to write something, but when I do, it has arms and legs.”

*From the German expression, “Es hat Hand und Fuß,” which translates figuratively to “It makes a lot of sense,” or “It is worthwhile,” but translates literally to “It has hand and foot.”



6 thoughts

  1. Ha ha, I can relate. Even after 40 years in the US, I still catch myself forcing English words onto German sayings and raising eyebrows.

    BTW…..I just spent 4 weeks in Germany in the apartment of elderly relatives with little access to the Internet. I needed a good book and I remembered your post about your favorite author, Patrick Rothfuss. So I downloaded my very first Fantasy novel and I’m really enjoying it! I would have never been interested in that genre had I not read your post.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. to hold water [fig.] Hand und Fuß haben [fig.] – though they are not completely reliable – when asked for Stimmband, they say vocal chord as well as vocal cord – while Merriam Webster and Cambridge online both just offer vocal cord.


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