Wacky animal phrases to goose your German

The Local Germany (14 October 2015)

Are you suffering from a raging tomcat after a heavy night out? Or are people saying you’ve got a bird and you just don’t understand what they mean? Germany certainly doesn’t hold back when it comes to animal-based idioms. We take a look at a few of the funniest.

German can be a tricky language to learn at the best of times – and that’s when everything makes literal sense.

But what about when someone’s saying you’ve made the goat the gardener? Or that you look like a cow standing in front of a new gate?

Apparently, our furry friends can be used to describe a whole range of emotions and situations in Germany.

We’re sure they make sense on some level.

1.”Sie ist bekannt wie ein bunter Hund” (“She’s as well known as a colourful dog”) Say somebody’s well known, or sticks out like a sore thumb. How are you going to describe them? Well, they’re like… they’re like a colourful dog! Ah, that well-known character.

2.”Er hat den Bock zum Gärtner gemacht” (“he’s made the goat the gardener”) We can probably all agree that you’d be darn silly to leave the goat in charge of your garden. In all honesty, you’d be asking for trouble… which is exactly what this idiom means.

3.”Wo sich Hase und Fuchs gute Nacht sagen” (“where the hare and the fox say goodnight”) Look at those two cuties. Can’t you just imagine them giving each other a long, loving farewell at the end of the night? No? We can’t either. Maybe that’s why they like to do it in secret. This phrase translates to something like “in the middle of nowhere.”

4.”Sie hat einen Kater” (“She’s got a tomcat”) Woken up with a pounding head, an empty wallet and the lingering taste of Sambuca in your mouth? Chances are you’ve got yourself a fully-fledged tomcat, or hangover. Best hunt down those painkillers.

5.”Wie die Kuh vorm neuen Tor dastehen” (“like a cow standing before a new gate”) Apparently cows just can’t handle it when someone puts up a new gate. It gets them all confused and weirded out. That’s what this idiom suggests, anyway. If you look like a cow in front of a new gate, you’re looking absolutely baffled.

6.”Er hat einen Vogel” (“he has a bird”) If you’re a bit crazy, people in Germany might say you’ve “got a bird.” They don’t really specify what kind of bird, but we reckon this owl fits the bill pretty well. He’s definitely got that look about him.

7.”Da liegt der Hase im Pfeffer!” (“there’s the rabbit in the pepper!”) Similar to the “hair in the soup” which featured in our list of food idioms, your rabbit in the pepper is the one problem spoiling your otherwise flawless plan. No, we don’t get it either. I mean, we can’t imagine this little cutie being unwelcome in any scenario.

8.”Er hat seine Schäfchen ins Trockene gebracht.” (“he’s brought his sheep into the dry”) What a lovely shepherd! Unfortunately, saying somebody brings their sheep into the dry doesn’t always have such caring connotations. It means to feather your nest – or to take advantage of your position, make a profit and amass a comfortable amount of wealth for yourself.

9.”Unter aller Sau” (“under all pig”) Technically, the German “Sau” translates to “sow,” an adult female pig. But this piglet in a bucket was far cuter. In any case, if someone tells you your German is “unter aller Sau,” it means it’s atrocious, and beneath contempt. Best get the phrasebook out.

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