How To Be A “Hater” With German Food Phrases

Being totally food obsessed, I’ve long been meaning to concoct a post on German phrases connected to food and drink. As I started compiling them, it struck me that they had one thing in common: they are all depreciative.

I’m not sure what that says about German food culture… but let’s not fixate on that. Instead, let me serve you up a fabulous selection of wholesome German staples, replete with sausages, beer, sauerkraut, mustard and cheese, and show you how to deploy them to put any Teutonic blogger – or commenter! – in their place.

Das ist mir Wurst!
Probably the best translation for this phrase is “it’s all sausage to me!”. What it means is that you just don’t care, that you don’t give a rat’s arse about whatever. Very handy on the interwebs, that one…

Quite recently, this phrase made a quick little dash through the European media. When Austrian performer Tom Neuwirth, who won the Eurovision Song Contest a couple of months ago in the guise of his gender-bending alter-ego Conchita Wurst, was asked about his eclectic choice of stage name, he explained that it was based on the German “Wurst” expression, because, whether boy or girl, it was all the same to him.

OK… he may have been just a smidgen disingenuous (and quite witty) here, because we all know what pops into everyone’s head at the mere mention of the word “sausage”, right?! And on top of that, “Conchita”, which Neuwirth claims he borrowed from a Cuban friend, while being a fairly common first name in the Hispanic world, has a saucy double meaning: “Pussy”.

ConchitaWurst

Meet Ms “Pussy Sausage”. [Photo courtesy of my blogging buddy Debbie, from travelwithintent.com, who accidentally gatecrashed the Austrian artist’s photo shoot in Amsterdam a few months back.]

Das ist nicht mein Bier
“This is not my beer” brings to mind the English expression “It’s not my cup of tea”. However, the meaning is not the same. If a German says that something is not his beer, he’s telling you that, whatever it is, it’s just not his problem. A nifty little phrase, I think, for dissing an irrelevant comment that has nothing to do with a post, and everything to do with the commenter’s own agenda.

The Polish have, I believe, put it like this: “Not my circus, not my monkeys”.

Jemandem das Kraut ausschütten
When you “spill someone’s cabbage”, then something you said or did has seriously pissed them off. Maybe you failed to remove your sock fluff from the apartment block’s communal dryer? Played your antique MC Hammer CD 15 decibels above the permitted noise emission level at 9:25 on a Sunday morning? And no, this won’t just blow over. Germans know how to hold a grudge. I’m afraid, you’ll have to bake a strudel or something to make amends.

What strikes me is that a great number of bloggers and commenters are not only experts in this field, but they are positively lying in wait for somebody to offend them! For some, their cyber success is entirely based on this…erm… “skill”. Luckily, they’ve not found me yet…

Before moving onto the next culinary gem, let’s dwell, just for a minute, on the word “Kraut”. It’s the Brits’ favourite pet name for the Germans, but I’m quite convinced that the majority doesn’t actually know that “Kraut” means “cabbage”.

For those of you ol… mature enough to remember, Germany had a chancellor named Helmut Kohl in the 1980’s (see pic below). “Kohl” is another word for cabbage. Now, if that’s not fodder for a jolly good joke, I don’t know what is, but I never came across any chuckles in the British press about the Chieftain of the Krauts being called “Kraut”. Or did I miss something there…?

OK... looks like somebody DID get the joke.

OK… looks like somebody, at least, did get the joke…

I trust that some of you will have tried “Sauerkraut”, a type of pickled cabbage that serves as the most traditional accompaniment of German pork sausages.  The term, which the nickname “Kraut” was originally derived from, literally means “sour cabbage”.

What has long baffled me is that far more people seem to be familiar with the French term “choucroute”, which is but a screwed up French way of mispronouncing the original German word. I can’t actually get this aberration over my lips, try as I might. And neither should you. I am hereby launching my campaign to re-instate “Sauerkraut” as the only correct way of referring to, well, Sauerkraut! [Note that the “au”, which features twice, should be pronounced like the “ow” in “chowder”, or, for that matter, the “ou” in “sour”. It’s as simple as that.]

Seinen Senf dazugeben
This one’s very important. In fact, any self-respecting hater or troll is an expert on this – it’s their raison d’être.  The expression, which translates as “to add one’s mustard”, means to give one’s opinion, though the implication is that nobody asked for it in the first place. Adding one’s mustard has always been a cherished human pastime, but the internet has taken things to new heights. And lows.

As an aside (ha!), Senf is a quintessential German condiment. Many kinds of sausages and meat products simply CANNOT be eaten without mustard. Germany is home to hundreds… what am I saying… THOUSANDS of different types. And we take our mustard matching much more seriously than picking the right wine.

So ein Käse!
Another staple item in the hater’s toolbox. If you want to deride a German blogger’s reasoning abilities, or just trash a post with one crisp little phrase, you can do so by poo-pooing their precious writings as “cheese”.

This should be of particular interest to Spanish speakers, because when my Spanish friends refer to someone as “being like a cheese” (“¡está como un queso!”), they will usually be drooling over a hunky guy. So, amigas (y amigos), if you’re trying to pull a German, it might be best to steer clear of cheesy pick-up lines.

Du gehst mir total auf den Keks!
“You are totally getting on my nerves!” “Keks” means biscuit or cookie. There’s another, slightly less savoury version of this, where the biscuit is replaced with “Sack”. Sack means sack in both German and English, but it’s also a German colloquial term for scrotum. You get the picture…

Kalter Kaffee
“Cold coffee” is old news. So, when a blogger bores the pants off you with trite statements or an in-depth analysis of last week’s headlines, you can express your dismay by pouring cold coffee into their comment box.

Not what you were expecting? It's a tough life...!

Not what you were expecting? It’s a tough life…!

Incidentally, Germans do like their coffee cold, especially in the summer, when we drink “Eiskaffee”. But watch out: Eiskaffee is NOT iced coffee. Instead of a refreshing coffee slushie, what you’ll get is a caloric missile of coffee laced with at least two scoops of ice cream and a whipped cream & chocolate sauce tower on top. There may even be a Keks or two sticking out. If you’re surly enough to send it back, you’ll run into serious risk of spilling the waiter’s cabbage…

 

 

 

 

[If you want to expand your repertoire of choice German phrases even further, you might enjoy this: The German National Character Explained In Three Culturally Loaded Phrases]

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74 thoughts on “How To Be A “Hater” With German Food Phrases

  1. NancyTex

    Simone, these are fantastic! I’m afraid I spill people’s cabbage all the time. Oh well… 🙂

    Speaking of cabbage, I had a meal in Strasbourg 10 years ago, “choucroute’. It was the most disturbing thing ever: a giant mountain of warm cabbage (didn’t taste at all sour to me) and over that heap were decoratively laid 6 enormous greyish-looking sausages that looked like portions of someone’s lower intestine. It haunts me to this day.

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  2. Bastet

    Lol … How delightful to read how food works itself into the language…I’m German origin so I’m always tickled to read a fun post about German customs and food!

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  3. everywherebuthome

    These are delightful. Now I need to go find a pronunciation guide…

    Most of the Mongolian sayings I know are about horses and/or other livestock. Which makes them indirectly about food, I suppose…

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  4. Heyjude

    Hilarious! I must remember not to upset a German blogger. And much as I adore sausages I’m afraid Sauerkraut is definitely NOT my cup of tea 😉

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Mine neither. I don’t hate it, but I wouldn’t really order it, and my Mum knows NOT to make it when I’m on home visits. Too much other stuff to gorge myself stupid on 🙂

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  5. Kim in Fiji

    Fun stuff! I will never forget “it’s all sausage to me” thanks to your unforgettable details! Meanwhile, I’m thinking that “cheese” doesn’t fare so well in American idioms either – not just “cheesy” but also “cutting the cheese” for odorous flatulence….

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  6. freebutfun

    Love these! Do they use food words in Spanish too? Can’t think of any idioms with them in Finnish or Swedish at the moment (but I am probably jsut too tired)

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  7. June

    It’s too early in the morning for all this talk of sausage – my poor brain can’t cope. Very entertaining list – I’ll be keeping a few in mind for cyber trolls. I don’t have any on my blog but I have one on my FB page – drives me cracked with either corrections or completely irrelevant commentary. Just go away, please. Not sure the German would work on said individual – any chance of a list in English? I can’t think of any beyond “piece of cake” (or “wee buns” as they say in Norn Iron) or “take the biscuit” – think I need something with a bit more oomph!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Ahrgh, sorry to hear you’re having trolling problems – how very annoying!

      Actually, I am compiling a new list… English sayings that can’t be translated literally into German without some serious fallout happening 😉

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  8. bevchen

    I’ve never heard “Jemandem das Kraut ausschütten” – apprantly it doesn’t happen in my circles? And Sauerkraut is horrid stuff 😉

    I obviously know what Kohl means, but until you pointed it out, it had never occurred to me that Helmut Kohl is indeed a cabbage called cabbage.

    And I love Conchita! I’m sad I missed her at the Donauinselfest. One of the screens said she would be coming, but not until after we left Vienna. TRAGEDY!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I think it’s a very southern expression, that one 😉

      Conchita! I’m all envious of Debbie for having snapped at her in Amsterdam, and she didn’t even know who it was at the time!

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  9. Debbie Smyth

    I loved this post. I thought it might be a sausage post when you asked to use the photo, but you’ve managed so much more than sausage! And I didn’t know Conchita had a another meaning – all in all, a very clever choice of name!
    This mix between language and culture is what makes learning languages so fascinating! I was researching a few French idioms earlier this week for a presentation I have to give in Paris next week. Not sure I quite have the confidence to do it all in French, but I thought I’d cheer it up with a few French proverbs. Just have to be careful not to misuse them…

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Conchita is a diminutive of “concha”, which means “shell”, and shells have an association with female genitalia. Incidentally, here in Spain, “conchita” is not used to refer to “pussy”, it’s more of a South American thing.

      Oooooh, good luck with the presentation. Would love to hear how that one goes, email me 🙂

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  10. linnetmoss

    So many idiomatic riches here. As a mustard lover myself, I was particularly interested to learn of the German obsession with this condiment, and the concern for correct food/mustard pairings! Too bad the cheese/gorgeous man idiom doesn’t work in English, though maybe I could start a new trend: He da cheez!

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  11. Anonymous

    My mother’s from Germany, and she loves to talk about what a crushing disappointment it was the first time she ordered an iced coffee in the US.

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  12. Pingback: I Can Has Cheezburger? | Linnet Moss

  13. Tim

    Here we say “Sauerkraut”, I’ve never heard anybody call it anything else 🙂 I’ve taken to eating copious quantities of it in the past few years in the hopes of improving my German skills. (That is how it works, right?)

    A food-based insult in German that always amuses me is “Lauch”.

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      1. Tim

        I’m not quite sure about Lauch — it may only be used in certain regions or among certain age groups. Certainly I come across it on YouTube from time to time (e.g. somebody writes “Du Lauch” in a comment). It may be that it is meant more in jest than as a serious insult 🙂

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  14. Pingback: The master becomes the student | Expat Eye on Latvia

      1. barbedwords

        Back in the UK for a few weeks to escape the heat; I can’t cope with anything over 22 degrees so I’m hoping for a lovely, miserable summer here… Still have one more year to go in Rome before returning…somewhere 🙂

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  15. Cassandra (@GeeCassandra)

    As a fellow language lover, I got a kick out of this post.

    When I tried to think of similar cases in Spanish, “chorizo” (thief) came to mind. In Madrid I’ve seen many posters featuring politicians and other figures who are presumed to steal money emblazoned on posters with the slogan “No hay pan para tanto chorizo.” Have you seen posters like this, too?

    Out of the German phrases, I really loved “to add one’s mustard.” What a great image!

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Do you currently live in Madrid? I’m going to move there at some point, hopefully not too far in the future. Maybe you could give me a low-down at some point. Also re. accommodation.

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  17. Pingback: Nothing Separates A German From Their Sausage | Lady Of The Cakes

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