Hilarious German Proverbs: Part IV

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“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” — Friedrich Nietzsche — Image Credit: Aqua Mechanical (https://www.flickr.com/photos/aquamech-utah/) — Subject to CC 2.0 License.

Here’s another list of wacky German proverbs! Most originate from within the country of Germany, but some are from regions of other countries where they also — for reasons I will never truly understand — choose to speak the unnecessarily complicated language known as German. (Seriously, “der,” “die” and “das” can all go straight to hell.)

But as I’ve said many times in the past, German people are awesome. They’re hilarious, in their own sad, perpetually downtrodden sort of way. This is well-demonstrated by their linguistic expressions and proverbs, many of which — while illustrative — are about as cheerful as a calf in a veal pen.

What follows is another list of my favorite German proverbs, which I have translated literally — exactly the way they sound to my red-blooded American ears — followed by the original German saying:

“Every fool likes his own hat.”

German: “Jedem Narren gefällt seine Kappe.”
English equivalent: “Every fool is pleased with his own folly.”
My interpretation: “You sniff your own farts.”

“Only the hard go into the garden.”

German: “Nur die Harten kommen in den Garten.”
English equivalent: “Only the strong survive.”
My interpretation: “Bro, do you even lift?”

“Small kettles have big ears.”

German: “Kleine Kessel haben große Ohren.”
English equivalent: “You never know who might be listening.”
My interpretation: “Shhhh! The room is bugged.”

“Crooked wood also makes straight fire.”

German: “Krummes Holz gibt auch gerades Feuer.”
English equivalent: “Don’t wait for perfection — do what you can with what you have.”
My interpretation: “Last call, dude. Go home with the fat chick.”

“I believe my pig is whistling.”

German: “Ich glaub, mein Schwein pfeift.”
English equivalent: “I don’t believe you.”
My interpretation: “You are a filthy, filthy liar.”

“Running is a shame, but healthy.”

German: “Laufen ist eine Schande, aber gesund.”
English equivalent: “He that runs and flees away, might live to see another day.”
My interpretation: “You’re still alive. Congratulations, coward.”

“There lies the rabbit in pepper!”

German: “Da liegt der Hase im Pfeffer!”
English equivalent: “There is the rub,” or, “This is the cause of that.”
My interpretation: “Oh my god, someone put Nibbles in the spice cabinet!”

“Empty ears stand erect.”

German: “Leere Ähren stehen aufrecht.”
English equivalent: “He who speaks most has the least to say.”
My interpretation: “Shut your cake hole.”

“Everything has an end, only sausage has two.”

German: “Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.’’
English equivalent: “All good things must come to an end.”
My interpretation: “Hey honey, check out these double sided dildos!”

“The devil’s favorite piece of furniture is the long bench.”

German: “Des Teufels liebstes Möbelstück ist die lange Bank.”
English equivalent: “Never put off until tomorrow, that which can be accomplished today.”
My interpretation: “Quit stalling. It ain’t gonna suck itself.”

What about you? Do you know any funny German proverbs? Fire ’em off in the comments section below!

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14 thoughts

  1. I always heard “Little pictures have big ears” — applies specifically to little kids because you may think they aren’t listening, but Heaven help you if they repeat (or re-interpret) what you say.

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  2. I think it was “Little *pitchers” have big ears,” which is almost a direct translation D-to-E. I’ve heard it all my life in Appalachia. Not surprising, given the interface between Scots-Irish and German in the region.

    Of Appalchia, it is often said: “The English came and built a house, the Germans came and built a barn, and the Scottish came and built a still.”

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  3. My favourite? “Das ist zum Mäusemelken!” (It is to milk mice – it’s enough to drive you crazy.) I learnt this from Duolingo but sadly my German husband tells me nobody uses it. Ever. Clearly got to change that.

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      1. Oh, good to know! He’s actually from Cape Town. Grew up with a Namibian mother and went to the Deutscheschule, so German is his mother tongue, but I guess it’s colonial German. His Swiss father also didn’t know this idiom. I shall use it as often as possible and tell them all my German is more German than theirs.

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