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The Complete Family Sayings (185 so far) (On My Father’s Birthday, December 29, 2008)

with 10 comments

(My Father was born in 1897, so that would be 116 years ago. He died in 1977.)

Family Sayings, Mostly from my Father, who seemed to think in sayings. Now situations arise and his sayings again and again come to mind.

1. „Wenn es Heute regnet, wird das Leder billiger“!?!

(„Wenn es Häute regnet, wird das Leder billiger.“)

When you get it: „Nun ist der Groschen gefallen.“ (“Now the coin dropped.”) This saying was never explained to me. When I did not understand it, everybody just laughed. It was sixty years later, while crossing a street in Philadelphia that I suddenly understood it. “Haut” in German means “hide” and “hides” in the plural is a pun with the word for “today:” “Häute” versus “Heute.”

2. „So lange diese Rose blüht, wird uns kein Geld verwelken (verschimmeln).“ (“So long as this rose blossoms, no money of ours will wilt.”)(My father said this when he lit up a cigar.) Maybe this is just poetic. I don’t yet understand it. (12/11/2013) Let me take a stab at it: smoking a cigar is a luxury and a sign of prosperity rather than being in hard times. The smoker lighting up takes his cigar for a rose or it may be made from rose leaves and he calls the glow at the end of the cigar the blossom of the rose. Because he is enjoying a cigar, he is not experiencing hard times. Smoking the cigar is also like burning money, meaning he has money to burn.  (Johnnie helped me understand this saying, finally.)

3. „Ein Kater haben wir gehabt; eine Katze wollten wir nicht mehr haben.“ (On discovering we had a female cat, while we thought it was a male.) I never got this one either.

4. „Wat der Buer nit kennt, dat fret er nit.“ (“What a farmer or peasant doesn’t know he won’t eat.”)(When we refused to eat some novel food.)

5. „Schieb ‘leine.” (“You can push it by yourself!”)(This was said when one became angry at the other, while as refugees, we were pushing the wagon with all our belongings.)

6. Greek: Ής ήδώνης, Ής ήδώνης, Ής έστιν. (Long A and O: Has hadonas, has hadonas, has estin.) (“Hedonism” comes from the Greek word.)

(“What happiness, what happiness, this life is!”)

7. Your room is a TOHU WA BOHU! (complete chaos)

8. „Wenn nicht Heute, denn Morgen, Übermorgen ganz gewiss.“

(When we were caught procrastinating.) (“If not today, then tomorrow; the day after tomorrow I’ll do it for sure!”)

9. „Abends wird der Fauler fleissig.“ (Putting things off) (“In the evening lazy people get busy.”)

10. „Arbeit macht das Leben süss!“ (The only part we heard. When our relatives from Germany visited us we heard the second part of the saying: “Aber Faulheit stärkt die Glieder.”) (“Work sweets up your life. Laziness strengthens up your limbs.”)

11. Fritz Reuter: “Morgen, Herr Av’kourt. Mi is do wat passiert….“ (This is the beginning of a funny narrative poem that my father always began when we appeared in the morning.) (“G’mornin, Sir Advocate, something just happened to me!”)

„I know you had a blow-out!“ said my little brother, who didn’t realize that the poem was about being bitten by a dog. (I’ve translated this poem from the Mechlenburg Plattdeutsch and   translated it here: G’d Morning, Sir Advocate.)

12. „Wat recht ist, muss auch recht bestahn

Un sollt’ die Welt in Stücken gahn.”

(“What’s right is right so right increases

or else this world will go to pieces.”)

(From the same poem)

13. „Ach, er hat die Welt belogen,

dass die Erd-achs sich verbogen.”

(“Oh he lied to the world,

Till the earth’s axes bent and curled.”) (From another poem about having been to the North Pole [or the moon?] I believe.)

14. „Immer heiter, Gott hilft weiter.” (“Keep being cheerful, God will keep on being helpful.”)

15. „Da gehen die A,B,C, Schützen.” (On seeing the little folk going to school.) (“There go the little hunters chasing the A, B, C’s.”) (The little ones learning the alphabet.)

16. „Wenn es dem Esel zu gut geht, dann geht er auf das Eis und bricht ein Bein.” (”If things go too well for a donkey, it goes skating on ice and breaks a leg.“)

17. „De Kreih, de kreeg een vun de achtersten Been” (A refrain: “and the crow gets one of the hind legs.”)

To find this song see:

18. „Sing man tau, sing man tau,

von Herrn Pastor sien Kauh, jau, jau.
Sing man tau, sing man tau,

von Herrn Pastor sien Kauh!”

To see this hilarious song in Plattdeutsch that my father used to sing, see:

19. Fritz Reuter: „Wat den einen sin Uhl is den andern sin Nachtigal.“ (“What for one is an owl, is for another a nightingale.”)

20. Sag mal: „Der Hahn, der Hahn und nicht die Henne!“ (“Say after me, the rooster the rooster and not the hen.”) (A way of confusing children. They think they have to repeat the whole phrase, but he wants them not to repeat “the hen.”)

21. „Vorsicht ist die Mutter der porzelan Kiste.“ (“Caution is the mother of a porcelain object.”)

22. „Nun ist der Groschen gefallen.” (When it finally clicked and someone understood something.) (“Now the coin dropped.”)

23. „Wenn zwei dasselbe tun, dann ist es doch nicht dasselbe.“ (“If two people do the same thing, then it is not the same thing.”)

24. “Is it heavy? Take two trips!” (Whenever someone carried something heavy, my father would use this expression. Now if what you carried consisted of many items, it made sense. But he used it, when it was one heavy item, which merely spelled double the work.) Evidently they said it in the Ambridge, PA steel factory in which my father and others had to carry heavy pipes to the railroad cars. The blood would spurt from some of the worker’s shoulders, the pipes were so heavy.

25. “Warum leichter machen, wenn’s schwerer geht?” (“Why make things easy, when they can be more difficult?”) The idea for this expression might come from Kierkegaard.

We used it in a superficial way, while working together. Like we were putting heating pipes under the house and while one of my brothers was chiseling a hole into one of the rafters for a pipe, the other said, “Cut that out!” wanting him to stop. But the first said, “That’s what I’m trying to do!”

Kierkegaard had a much more subtle meaning. We always try to make life easier for ourselves, but the authentic life is full of difficulties and suffering. In addition, self-knowledge, so hard to attain, is avoided, for the most part, by us all.

26. Yehi Or, va yehi Or. (Hebrew) “Let there be light and there was light.” (While switching on the light in a room.)

27. „Mit Vielem kommt man aus; mit Wenig hält man Haus.“

(“One barely makes it with a lot. With a little, you can run the household.”)

28. „Hättest Du geschwiegen, wärst Du Professor geblieben.”

(“If you had kept quiet, everyone would still think you were a professor.”)

29. „Der Mensch denkt, aber Gott lenkt.” (“A Human being reflects, but God directs.”)

30. „An Gottes Segen ist alles gelegen.” (“Everything depends on God’s blessings.”)

31. „Zu gut sein ist halb Leichtsinn.” (“To be overly good is half thoughtless.”)

32. „Was macht’s? Nachher die Sintflut!” (“What of it? The deluge will come after my life!”) The saying has classical roots, but mostly today gets ascribed to King Louis XV of France (1710-1774): “Après moi le déluge.”


33. „,Guten Morgen’ segt der Buer wenn er in die Stadt kommt.” (“A peasant, a farmer, is supposed to say, ‘Good Morning’ when he enters the city.”) My father said this if we failed to say “Good Morning” when we came down and joined the family in the morning. In my imagination, I see a farmer in his wagon coming into the Holzentor in Lübec.

34. „Aller Anfang ist schwer.” (“All new beginnings are difficult.”)

35. „Mit Sorgen und mit Grämen und mit selbsteigner Pein

lässt Gott sich garnichts nehmen, es muss erbeten sein.“ („With groans and self castigation, we won’t get anywhere with God. We’ll only receive it by prayer.”)

This is a beautiful Paul Gerhardt verse from his song: „Befiehl du deine Wege.” Charles Wesley has a translation of some verses of this song in the old red Service Book and Hymnal, # 579, but not of this verse. What is so daunting in Gerhardt’s verses is the acrostic, where the first word of every verse reads: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, He’ll do it all.” Psalm 37:5. To work on it a bit:

“With groans and heavy grieving, self-torture and despair,

we will not be receiving, what God only grants by prayer.”

Another free translation:

“With our own effort, work, and worry, we won’t get anywhere.
God’s gracious breakthroughs come only through prayer.”

36. „Studiere nur und raste nie, du wirst es nicht begreifen. Ende aller Philosophie, ist dass wir galuben müssen.”

(Keep on studying and do not rest. But after all our Philosophy we end up having to believe.)

37. Wer einen Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist einen Taler nicht wert.” (“Whoever doesn’t value a penny will also not be worthy of a dollar.”) I thank Priscilla for this one!

38. „Du hast kein Sitzefleisch!“ (How to translate that? “You have no flesh to sit on!”Father would say this when we squirmed on a chair and could not remain still and seated.

39. „Ich muss mal gehen wo der Kaiser selbst zu Fuss geht.“ (“I have to go, where the kaiser himself has to walk and do it himself,“) that is, go to the bathroom.

40. My father would stroke his mustache and say, „Nur eine Kleinigkeit!” (“Just a detail!”) I’m not sure what he meant by it.

41. „Noch einen Spatenstich!“ (“Dig one spade more!“) My father always said this when my youngest brother was digging the garden and he didn’t dig a full row.

42. „Acht Tage Schwanheim!“ (“Eight days of Schwanheim!“) Whenever we did not like our food and complained or did not eat it all, someone would say that. We starved so much in that UNRA camp in Schwanheim, that baby James died, and we would eat anything we could get our hands on. I remember eating apple peals thrown into a hole behind the guard house at the entrance of the camp.

43. „Nichts ist schwerer zu ertragen als eine Reihe von guten Tagen.“ (“Nothing is harder to endure than a series of good days.”) This saying my father said often. It’s a little like Lake Woebegone.

44. „Studenten Jahren sind keine Herre Jarhen.“ (“Student years are not the years of Lords.”) My father said this to emphasize that being a student was hard work, poverty, drudgery, slavery. In graduate school they said, “If you live like a lawyer when you are a student, then you’ll live like a student when you’re a lawyer.” That referred to taking out student loans. What happens if you take out such loans and you remain unemployed? Sigh!

45. „Ich bin ein geplagter Eheman!“ (“I am a tormented husband!“) When my father had to do housework or deal with criticism from my mother. I say this to myself when I do the dishes.

46. „Andrer Leuten Fehler sind angenehme Lehrer.” (I’m not sure of the wording on this one.) (“The mistakes of others are precious instructors.”)

The mistakes of others are pleasant teachers, because they suffer and we get instruction from them.

47. „Wie ist dein Wettkampf gegangen?“

„Sehr gut. Bald lag er oben, bald lag ich unten.“

“How did your wrestling match go?”

“It went very well. Sometimes he was on top

and sometimes I was on the bottom.”

(This was one my father’s jokes.)

48. (Another one:) A student comes into his dorm room, while the other is already in bed.

„Du, schloppst Du?“

„Nein, ich schlopp nicht.“

„Kannst Du mir ein Dollar Pumpen?“

„Nein, nein. Ich schlopp.“

“Hey, are you sleeping?“

“No, I’m not.“

“Can you lend me a dollar?“

“No, no, I’m sleeping!“

49.  A beggar has a sign saying,

“Please help me. I’m deaf.”

A fellow, putting something into his cup, asks,

“How long is it you’ve been deaf?”

“Since my birth.” He answers. „Seid meiner Geburt.“

50. Er /sie hält kein Blatt vor dem Mund!“
(This means a person is very outspoken, blunt.)

51. „Bestellt aber nicht abgeholt.” (“Ordered but not picked up.”)

(When people or children just stand there somewhat forlorn and in disarray.

52. „Nun hat die liebe Seele Ruh!

(“Now finally your soul will get some rest.”)

When you finally received something you really wanted, but my father resisted your getting it until he gave in.

53. „Bist Du nicht recht beim Trost?“ (“Are you crazy?“)

54. „Da bleibt einem die Spuche weg!“ (“That takes away a body’s spit!”)

i.e., it’s so outrageous, you can’t believe it.

55. „Von links nach rechts ist schlecht, von rechts nach links gelingst.“

(“From left to right is blight, from right to left is deft.”)

Evidently this is about superstition. When a cat crossed your road from the right to the left,
what you set out to do would be successful. When the cat went from left to right, you would not,
so you might as well return home.

56. „Bist du nicht ein Strampelman?” One of Mom’s little sayings to babies, when she exercised them

and they threw their arms and kicked their legs with delight. How would I translate “Strampelman?”

57.   „Hop, hop Reiter,
Wenn er fällt - ‚er’ schreit er.
Fällt er in den Graben,
so fressen ihn die Raben,
Fällt er in den Sumpf,
dann macht der Reiter plumps.“
      This was a poem my mother recited while bouncing one of her children up and down on her knees and then letting
them fall backward, holding their hands, of course,for the infant's thrill, which was pure delight.
It is of course problematic in content, like “Rock-a-bye baby”.“If he falls in the ditch, then the ravens will eat him!
”Maybe part of it is mindless rhyming („Reim dich oder fress dich!”)when one rhymed simply for the sake of rhyming,
 even if it made no sense. 

58. “Just think that everybody out there has cabbage heads.” Mom said this when we did public speaking and had stage-fright.

59. „Das sind Geschichten des Lebens, die im Tode nicht mehrvorkommen.“ My father would say.

(These are stories in life that no longer take place in death.)

60. „Hunger treibst ‘rein.” (I only eat it because I’m so hungry. It was not a meal that my father liked, particularly.)

61. „Das ist mein Leibgericht.” (That is the meal I love the most. It’s food that keeps the body and soul together. That’s another saying.)

62. „Willst du eine Ohrfeige?” („Do you want your ears boxed?” or “Do you want a slap in the face?”)

63. „Knüppelst Dir hinter den Ohren?” („Are you trying to get your ears cuffed?“ or “Are you trying to get a slap in the face?” or „Der hat es knüppeldich hinter den Ohren!” (To my mother this meant the person could not be trusted.)

64. „Es braucht nicht so viel Philifanz.” (“It does not have to be so ornate.”)

65. „Bumalacka!” This meant „Goodbye!“

66. „Du verrücktes Huhn!” (When one of my sisters were being funny and mischievous, my other would say, “You crazy hen!”

67. „Der hat was am Schlawickel!” (That person was up to something.) „Schlamauck” „Schlamauckel” (This referred to chaos or noise.) A Schlamingel referred to a very mixed group of people. A Schlingel was a Bengel, both words meaning a brat or mischievous boy.

68. „Bist du meschuge?” (“Are you crazy?”)

69. „Weine nicht! Deine Mutter wird doch kein Soldat.

(“Don’t cry! They can’t draft your mother and make her a soldier.”) This is no longer a comfort for a child, because his mother may very well become a soldier.

70. „Witte West und nichts im Bauch!” (“Wearing a white vest, but with an empty stomach.”)

71. „Icke, ditte, Kiekemol, Ogen, Flehsch, und Behne.” A little Berlin street urchin would say.

Nein, mein Kind, so heisst das nicht. Augen, Fleisch, und Beine!“ the teacher corrected him.

72. One of my sisters to be funny would say, “Hit me on the head with a frying pan and call me Dick Tracy!”

73. „Der hat Köpschen!” (“That person is really smart!”)

74. „Sie hat die Ruhe weg!” (That person is really laid back, mellow, or low key.)

75. „Na, so was!” or „So was lebt nicht!” or „Na, so was lebt und Schiller musste sterben!” (You don’t say! This is an exclamation. “That can’t be possible!” (“Now something like that exists, while Schiller had to die!”)

76. „Ach, Kwatsch!” This was my mother’s way of saying, (“That’s nonsense!) She would also say, “Ach, Kwackaliduck!” (That’s balderdash!)

77. „Die hat was auf dem Herzen.” My mother would say that about someone who talked in circles because she did not dare to bring up a request. (“She has something on her heart.”)

78. One of my sisters would say, “Ich muss auf die Klo.” My mother would correct her, „Es heist das Klo.” Sometimes they would call the toilette, die Klikla.

79. The Berlin dialect places j’s in for the g’s: „Eine jutte jebratene Janz ist eine jutte Jabe Jottes!“ “A well roasted goose is a good gift of God.”

80. „Allet Käse, ist mir wurscht!” It was a pun I would say in Berlin. “Everything is cheese but its sausage to me.” But “cheese” meant “rotten” and Wurscht came from “Es ist mir wurst-pip-egal! “It doesn’t matter to me in the slightest!” Thus, (“Everything is rotten, but it doesn’t matter to me!”)

81. That’s so sour, it’ll pull the holes in your socks together!

82. „Owa, owa, schreit der Bauer. Was sind die Äpfel sauer.” (“Ouch! These apples are sour!”)

83. „Willst du ein Apfel? Puff. Da fliegt er!” If you wanted to tease a child, you asked if he wanted an apple. You blew up your cheeks, poked them, and pointed upward, (“There it goes, flying up there!”)

84. „Spurlos verschwunden!” (“It disappeared without a trace!”) Looking For car keys, for example, that you can’t find in the house.

85. „Ein schöner Rücken kann auch entzücken!“ (When a man is transfixed by a woman’s beautiful back).

86. Ich werde mich von innen bekiecken.” (When my father was about to take a nap, “I have to take a look at myself on the inside.”)

87. „Nun, husch die Lerche!” (“Now, hurry up!”) or „Husch ins Bett!” (“Hurry to bed!”)

88. „Ein Wetter wie in Schleswig-Holstein!” (On a very rainy day, “A weather like in Schleswig-Holstein!”)

89. “All roads lead to Georgetown!” When we were driving to the beach in Massachusetts, usually to Salisbury or Crane’s Beach, we wanted my father to make a stop at a Wasmacco Ice cream stand in Georgetown where the scoops of ice cream were extra large and the ice cream truly delicious.)

90. “What a rigmarole!” This is actually not the private language of our family. It is in the dictionary meaning “an elaborate or complicated procedure.”

91. „Kannst Du schweigen?” (“Can you keep a secrret?” My father would ask when we wanted to know some secret. Very quietly he would whisper in our ear, “Me, too.”) „Ich auch?” That was very frustrating!

92. „Komm mal gut hin mit deinem Koffer!” (This was an angry statement: “Hope you make it with your baggage case!”)

Three More of my Father’s Sayings (February 6, 2009)

93. „Man kommt nimmer auf einem grünen Zweig.“ Literally the German idiom goes: “We never get to a green branch.” But it means that prosperity always seems to elude us. (“We never do succeed in making ends meet.”)

94. „Erstens, geht es anders und zweitens, als man denkt.“ The English equivalent would be: (“Life is what happens when you have made other plans.”) or if one is very worried, things are different when you do something, sometimes completely different than you thought.

95. „Was dein ist ist mein und was mein ist, geht dir garnichts an.” (Whatever is yours is mine and whatever is mine is none of your business.) My father said this to demonstrate the violation of reciprocity and mutuality.

March 11, 2009

96. „Du hast recht und wer recht hat der gibt ein aus.“ Then he would hold out his hand making believe he expected something. “You are right and whoever is right picks up the check!” might be a way to translate it.

97. „Husch die Lerche!“ This is how my mother said, “Hurry up!”

98. „Lach doch mal. Lach doch mal. Dann weine!“ When we were halfway between crying and laughing, my father would tease us: “Why don’t you laugh? No, well you’re going to cry!”

99. „Meine Tante, deine Tante!” When A wheel wobbled on its axis, my father would say, “It’s going from your aunt to my aunt!” With two syllables, the saying would sound funnier in English: “The wheel is going my uncle, your uncle!”

100. „Das Schwarze: das sind die Buchstaben!” When we were reading and my father wanted to be funny, he would act like he was more than illiterate: “Those black marks: they are the letters!”

101. „Und so auf ein Stutz!“ (“So all of a sudden!“) My father said this when he felt too surprised by something.

102. When we all had to push a heavy load together, we used the words: “HO RUCK!” We would all push with the word: “Ruck.” Sailors will pull up an anchor together with “Heave Ho!” I will have to listen how workers ordinarily coordinate pulling or pushing heavy objects together.

103. „Unser Leben wird siebszig oder achtzig Jahre, und wenn es köstlich gewesen ist, dann ist es Mühe und Arbeit gewesen!” (“We can get to be seventy or eighty years old and if our life was precious, then it was filled with work and care.”)

104. „Wer am letzten lacht, lacht am besten.“ (“Who laughs last laughs best.“)

105. „Auf jedem Pott passt ein Deckel.” (“For every pot, there’s a lid that fits it.“)

106. „Was man nicht im Kopf hat, muss man in den Beinen haben.“ (“What we don’t have in our heads, we have to have in our legs.“)

107. „Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm.” (“The apple does not fall far from the tree.“)

108. „Hast du ein Brett vorm Kopf?” (“Do you have a wooden board in front of your head?”) This meant, “Why weren’t you understanding your instructions?”

109.„Gott ist Mühlen-mahlen langsam, mahlt aber kräftig fein. Was mit Langmut er versäumt, holt mit schärf er wieder ein.“ (“God’s mill is a very slow grind, but God’s grain is powerfully fine. What escapes because of the length of time, is made up by precision down the line.”)

110.„Der bekiegt sich von innen!” My father would say this, if he saw someone sleeping. (“That one is looking things over from the inside.”) Also see number 86.

111.„Es wird schon schief gehen.” (“Don’t worry! If something can go wrong, it will!”)

112. „Du hast hier nichts zu suchen!” This seemed to mean, “You should not be here!”

113. „Eee, dropschee, dropschee, dralla, Violin auf Drat kaput.” (My father sang this to imitate I think the broken German of a Gypsy. Perhaps the “Eee” should be “Iii” or “ie” in German.

114: „Ee gittie gitt!”  was an expression of disgust much like “Yuck!”

115. „Deutsch ist eine harte Sprache. Ein Wort hat drei Artikel: das, die, der Teufel hole!” “German is a hard language. One word has three articles: das, die, der Devil take you!” (The first is really “dass,” “that”; “die” is the personal pronoun “them,” and only “der” is the real article, “the” masculine.)

116. „Desto gelehrter, desto verkehrter.” (“The more educated, the more misguided.”)

117. „Der Winter ist ein harter Man, kern fest und auf die Dauer.

Sein Fleisch fühlt sich wie Eisen an; er kennt nicht süss noch sauer.”

(“Winter is a hard man, steadfast, no matter the hour.

His flesh feels like a steel band, no taste for sweet or sour.”)

Ok. This is pretty human:

118. „Wer es erst gerochen, ist’s aus die Büchs gekrochen”

(“Whoever smelt it, dealt it!”)

119. “Don’t fall on your back and break your nose!”  This was a funny saying of my father’s.

120. „Augenblick! Muss mir erst eine Piep stoppen!“ (My father would usually fill his pipe with tobacco before starting the car: “One moment: I just have to fill my pipe!“)

121. „In der Kürze liegt die Würze!“ (“With brevity you get to the essence.”)

122. „Er weiss nicht wo er sein Ei legen soll!“ (“He doesn’t know where to lay his egg.”) (Someone is looking where to sit down with his food.) (A saying of my mother.)

123. „Käse schliest den Magen.“ (Cheese closes the stomach, i.e., it finishes the meal.)

124. „Bier nach Wein lass sein; Wein nach Bier, rate ich dir.“ (Don’t drink beer after wine; but wine after beer is fine.)

125. „Der beste Mensch kann nicht in Frieden leben, wenn es den bösen Nachtbar nicht gefällt.“ (“The best person cannot live in peace, if it does not suit his evil neighbor.“)

126. „Morgen, Morgen, nur nicht Heute, sagen alle faule Leute.” (“Tomorrow, tomorrow, just not today, all lazy bodies say.”)

127. „Wenn der ganze Schnee verbrennt, die Asche bleibt uns doch!“ (“If all the snow burns up, we will still have the ashes.”) Perhaps this tells about hope against hope? Nature always leaves something.

128. „Kleider machen Leute.” (“People are made by their clothes.”) (I added to that: “But I don’t hold much of people, whose clothes can already make them.”)

129. „Was ist denn mit meine Brille los? Sie ist doch mit Fäts beschmieret!“ (In the old days, a church had only one hymnal. The pastor would read the verses line by line and the congregation would repeat the words to learn them. Here a pastor takes off his glasses in the middle of that exercise, saying, “What’s wrong with my glasses? They are smeared with dirt.” Only to discover that the congregation is repeating his words: “What’s wrong with my glasses? They are smeared with dirt.” Mindlessly they keep repeating what he says. “No, I mean my glasses!” “No, I mean my glasses!” etc.

130. „Mit dem Hut in der Hand kommt man durchs ganze Land.“ (“With hat in hand, one gets through the entire land.”)(This speaks of using a conscious kind of humility, which places a person under the radar and avoids any conflicts.)

131. („Sie bezahlen zu Viel zu sterben aber zu Wenig um zu leben!”) “They pay you too much to die on, but too little to live on.”

132. „Schuster bleib bei deinen Leisten, sonst sollst du kein Schuster heisen.” (This saying is about staying in your profession. If a cobbler starts fixing televisons instead of shoes, he will no longer be a cobbler.)

133. “Mass media molds the minds of mediocre money makers.“ (a saying of Johnnie’s)

134. “The battle you fight against yourself is the hardest battle you will ever fight, but it’s the sweetest victory you will ever win!” my father would say to us as he watched us struggle with ourselves.

135. „Mit der Dummheit kämpfen die Götter selbst vergebens.“(„Against stupidity, even the gods are helpless.“) The question my father posed: Was it “with” or “against”? („Im Bunde mit der Dummheit?”)Ignorant themselves, did they fight with ignorance in vain? As in Jesus’ saying, was it a case of the blind leading the blind? Or did it mean, no matter how intelligent you were, you could not win an argument against the ignorant.

136. „Wer heiratet, tu die Augen auf. Heiraten ist kein Pferdekauf!“ This is certainly a Nineteenth Century saying of my father. Today we could say, “Open your eyes, if you are going to get married. Marriage is not like purchasing a car.”

137. “Und gib dass ich beim Tisch, das grösste Stück erwisch!“ This is a selfish prayer, but said to make a person aware that they should not be greedy. (“At the table when we dine, let the biggest piece be mine!”)

138. „Ohn Gebet und Gottes Wort, geh niemals aus deinem Hause fort.“ (“Without a prayer and the Word of God, never set foot out of your abode.”)

139. „Er ist gut durch dem Winter gekommen.“ When my father saw someone with a rather fat belly, he would say:(“That person got through the winter pretty well.“)

140. Jetzt, deine Strafe: bar-fuss im Bette!” This was a joke. “Your punishment: you had to be bare-foot in bed.” It was no punishment, because you didn’t wear your socks and shoes to bed anyway.

141. Wer schreibt, der bleibt.” (“Writers live forever.”)

142. A children’s game: „Wir sind die Weisen vom Morgenland. Rate unser Geschaeft!” (“We are the Wise One from the East. Guess our business.”) The person them pantomimes being a shoemaker, painter, sculptor, whatever and the other child tries to guess the craft.

143. „Lauf mal hin. Du hast noch junge Beine!” (“Go and get it for me. You still have young legs!”) My father would say this.

144. When we drank water my father would call it “Japanese goose wine.”

145. „Es sollte ein Knall geben, und ich bin ins Bett…!”  (“There should just be a bang….”) and something would happen, in this case, “I’d be in bed.”

146. One of my father’s jokes: In  a Western the stagecoach driver is telling the guy riding shotgun, “There were Indians to the left of me, Indians to the right of me, behind me and in front of me shooting their guns and arrows.”

“And what Happened?”

“They killed me, of course.”

“But you’re here. You’re living.”

“Do you call this living?”

147. Die Morgen Stunde hat Gold im Munde.” (“Morning hours bespeak golden powers.”) That is an attempted translation. There might be a comparable one in English, one that I am certain Ben Franklin could have devised. Here in California the sun floods the morning with golden light.

148. „Wer nicht hören will, der muss fühlen.“ (If one doesn’t listen, then one will have to find out for oneself.  – This was said with too much emphasis on obedience and not enough mutual understanding and respect.)

149. When we children had to go to bed and we didn’t want to, it became an order: “Ins Bett, marsch, marsch!” (Get to bed! Now march!”

150. „Bist du schwer von Kapisch?” (“Why is it that you don’t understand?”)

151. „Jetzt ist der Oven aus!” (“Now it’s over!” literally: Now the oven has gone out!)

152. „Ich bin ganz verbiestert!” (“I am so confused!”) This is one of my mother’s expressions.

153. „Sprich mal ein Machtwort!” (When one of my sisters was trying to make the little ones mind, but they kept horsing around, she would appeal to my mother: “Speak a strong word to them!”) In Cincinnati, when the Black people became furious, they said, “Now you’re going to hear soul-talk!” “Soul-talk” is opposed to “lip-talk.”

154.  „Wer kann merken wie oft er fehlet?” (“Who can tell how often he makes a mistake?”)

155. „Alles kostet etwas. Auch das Sterben; es kostet das Leben.” (“Everything costs something. Even dying; that costs you your life.”)

156. „Os ou Wes, tu Hus is best!” In high German: „Ost oder West, zu Hause ist best!” (If you travel to the “East or West, back home is best.”)

157. “Your hair is standing up straight, so you’re lying!” My mother would say that to me if she thought I was lying. But I had a cowlick in the back of my head, so it was hard to defend myself.

158. My father would give an example, because we had misbehaved and say, So gehört sich das!” (“That’s how you should act!”) This was usually an angry statement.

159. Erhebe dich, du schwacher Geist!” (“Get up, you weak spirit!”) My father would say this if we slept late and he was waking us up.

160. When as children we would laugh without the ability of stopping, we would say we had a “Lach-Koller.”

161. „Die sind ein Kaliber!” (“They are both one of a kind!”)

162.  At the end of three pages, where my father is teaching me the old German script he has the spoof-poem:

Heil dir im Siegerkranz

Pellkartoffeln und Herringschwanz

Heil Kaiser Dir.

(Hail to you in your victory wreath

herring tail and potato peals Hail Kaiser to you. )

163. “I see!” said the blind man and fell into the ditch. (My father used to say)

164. „Nun danke Gott und sei zufrieden; nicht jedem auf diesem Erdreich ist solch hohes Glück beschieden.” At Christmas time when we received presents, my father would say: “Now thank God and be satisfied; not everyone on earth has been so very blessed.” Glück means “luck” but also “happiness” so “blessed” works better especially from his way of always emphasizing faith.

165. The schoolboy’s version of O Tannenbaum:

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, der Lehrer hat mich durchgehaun.

‘Guste musste Kartoffeln schäln

der Kaiser muss zu Fusse gehen.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, der Lehrer hat mich durchgehaun.

(I think I heard my father sing it one time mischievously that way.)

166. „Wenn ein Mensch dut was er dein kann, dann kann er nicht mehr dun als dass er deit.” (This is in Plattdeutsch: “When one does all one can do then one can’t do any more than one’s done.”)

167. Selbst ist der Man!” (A man does it himself! or A woman does it herself!) It’s like doing your homework. You do it yourself, you don’t get someone to do it for you. You do not remain dependent, but others can even depend on you.

168. Huu Eule, Huu Eule, Hänschen hat ‘ne Beule!” (Caster oil, oh, caster oil, Johnnie’s got a great big boil!) When we discovered that one of us had a boil, we would say this rhyme in a sing-song way. In German “owl” just rhymed and thus I just used “caster oil” for the rhyme.

169. Ei, ei batch!” (Ah, patty, pat slap!) This was a cruel game, but usually the slap was just playful. My father would stroke my face lovingly and then slap it! “Batch” (pronounced butch) was onomatopoeic, that is, said right with the sound of the slap. Check out Otto Kernberg’s book, The Inseparable Nature of Love and Aggression.

170. „Guten Morgen, ohne Kummer, ohne Sorgen!”

171. „Guten Morgen, liebe Liese, ei so früh shon auf der Wiese?

172. „Wenn zwei sich streiten, dann freut sich der Dritte.” (When two  people/ parties/ countries fight, then the third is happy.) For an example: in early modern European history, when Catholic forces from the southern Holy Roman Empire fought the Lutheran forces of the northern European Empire in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), France became the continental power of Europe.

173. „Hier stinkt’s wie Canarsi!” (Here it smells like Canarsi!) The garage dump of Brooklyn must have been near the shore of Canarsi and it smelled very badly whenever we drove through the area, so that we children would hold our noses.

174. „Wer steht, der sehe zu, dass er nicht falle.” My father used to warn us with this verse from 1 Corinthians 10:12: “If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.”

175. „Für den Meister gemacht!”  (Made for the master!) My father said this when we made a particularly good sandwich for ourselves – like you made it for Number one!

176. „Diest ist Dienst und keine Gefälligkeit.” (Your duty is your duty and it’s not at your pleasure.) A saying my father often said.

177. „Es sollte ein Knall geben, und dann bin ich im Bett.” My mother would say this when she was dead tired, even too tired to get ready for bed. (I wish there would be a bang and I would find myself in bed.) Priscilla visited us here in California and said it late on my birthday 12/09/2013

Johnnie told me some new ones today: 12/11/2013

178. „Wenn, wenn, wenn! Wenn meine Oma Räder hätt, dann wäre sie ein Omnibus!” This expressed exasperation with a hypothetical: (“If, if, if! If my grandmother had wheels, she would be an Omnibus!”)

179. „Habt den Arzt in Ehr, dann habt ihr ihn in der Not.” (Honor your doctor and then you will have him when you need him.)

180. „Erst eine Stunde hinlegen und dann ins Bett.” (I’m going to lay down for an hour and then go to bed.)

181. Johnnie’s own sayings: “When I get the urge to exercise, I lie down till it goes away.”

182. “I slept right through my morning’s nap!”

183. „Die Ungerechtigkeit nimmt beinahe überhand!” (Injustice has almost taken the upperhand!)

184. „Wer einmal lügt, den glaubt man nicht und wenn er auch die Wahrheit spricht.” (If someone lies just once, one no longer believes him even if he tells the truth.)

185. „Mit Speck fängt man Mäuse.” (You catch a mouse with a little bacon.) We might say “a little cheese.”

186. „Jedenfalls, jedenfalls, ist der Kopf dicker denn der hals!” This my father said to discredit an argument. “In every case, every stead, the neck is thinner than the head.” or perhaps: “In every case, as you said, the neck is thinner than the head.”


Written by peterkrey

December 29, 2008 at 8:01 pm

10 Responses

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