Awesome German Expressions: How to Say, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”

“Ow. Ow. Hey, let’s do this again sometime!” — Image Credit: SLO Coast Dogs In The Fast Lane ( — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

German expressions are the best; they’re funny, insightful and — more often than not — horrifying. As an American expat in Germany, I pay special attention to these local idioms, proverbs and age-old sayings — especially when my German wife translates them directly into English and then fires one off without warning. Like that time we played Heckmeck with my parents…

Have you ever heard of a game called Heckmeck (Sometimes called Pickomino)? It is both fun AND infuriating.

See, Heckmeck is a board game which uses dominoes and dice, and it’s great for convincing you that you have any control whatsoever over random chance. Last summer, we introduced my parents to this game one night after dinner, and my wife had the worst luck ever; she kept rolling terrible dice, over and over, until she was basically afraid to roll at all. I kept yelling, “Go for the fives! Go for the fives!” but my wife just shook her head, saying:

“No. I am a burned child.”*

*From the German expression, “Ein gebranntes Kind scheut das Feuer” which literally translates to, “A burned child avoids the fire,” but is figuratively equivalent to, “Once bitten, twice shy.” (And man, it sure seems like an inordinate number of German proverbs concern dead or dying children.)

6 thoughts

  1. What tinatainmentia said: I think you mixed up “schauen” meaning “to watch” and “scheuen” meaning “to shy away from”, “to avoid”.
    And: Awesome blog! Greetings from Hannover! Martin


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