Advent Calendar 12 – “Germeh!”

 

Hello everyone,

day 12 of our German is Easy Advent Calendar. Today, we’ll learn how to properly

express meh!

in German. And just in case you don’t know what I mean by that… I mean how to say that something was just okay, less than stellar, so-so, okay-ish, passable, tolerable.
And we all know what perfectionist pain in the butts Germans are. If something is not absolutely and utterly perfect, then it’s not good. It’s meh. Or in German:

It’s short for “Es geht so” which is literally something like “It gets a pass the way it is.” But it’s really not enthusiastic at all. Geht so really is THE equivalent of meh.
Examples:

 

I guess we should note that geht so never comes in combination with to be. So you don’t say something is geht so. You just say something geht so.

A common alternative is so lala, but this one is limited to judging between positive and negative. So it’s a bit more narrow than geht so.

And of course we need to mention ganz ok. It’s a bit more positive, conciliatory sounding than geht so but still it’s clear that there’s much much room for amelioration… uh… I mean improvement.

And that’s it for today. Now you know how to properly … oh… hold on… we actually have a call here. Weird. Like… how do you even call in to an Advent Calendar. Anyway, Stephanie from San Francisco, welcome to the show.
“Hi Emanuel, thanks for taking my call.”
Sure….
“I’m really, really shocked right now. Like… duuuude. Do Germans really tell someone to their face, that their hair-do is ‘sufficient’?!?! Like… I knew  Germans are direct and all, but this is so mean.”
Hahaha… no, I was kidding… that’s not really something people would do.
“Phew thank God!”
But for a soup you made, they might actually do that.
“Well… I guess I’m gonna have to get used to that. I’m gonna go to Germany next year, you know.”
Oh cool… well, yeah, if this happens to you don’t take it too seriously. It’s actually a sign of affection because they’re being honest.
“Hahaha… all right. Thanks.”
Thank you for calling.
And to all you guys out there, thanks a lot for listening. Now you know how to properly express the meh and you can actually start practicing in the comments right away by telling me how you liked this post.
Wait… actually, forget that last bit :).
Anyway, what are your experiences with geht so? Have you used it? Have you heard it? Has a German hurt your feelings with it? Let me know in the comments below.
Schönen Tag euch und bis morgen.

for members :)

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Simon
Simon

Does the negation of the phrase mean anything? Like to express absolute dissatisfaction / unacceptability : “das geht NICHT so ! ” ?

I ask because in French, “ça va”, which is similar, is sort of “vanilla” as an assessment, and its negation : “…mais ça va PAS ! ” is a pretty good way to express that you are totally unhappy with something/someone.

Great series of mini-lessons by the way. I’m picking up tonnes of vocabulary from the examples !

person243
person243

“Das geht (ja mal) gar nicht!” = “That is so not okay!”

The “so” evaluates here how it “goes”. And it is midway between good and bad. Naturally it would still be midway if negated so you don’t do that.

Ryan Myer
Ryan Myer

Immediately tried it at work.
First tried “geht so”, and the reaction was: what’s wrong??
So I took it back and tried “ganz ok”, and then the reaction was better.
The person I spoke to told me that if something is wrong and I want to talk about it, then I should use geht so. Otherwise ganz ok is the way to go.
I had a feeling that was the case, but wanted to check it in a real conversation :)

person243
person243

Interestingly there are some phrases that objectively don’t sound much better than this “geht so” but are indeed rather positive in German. Such as: “nicht schlecht” and its brother “gar nicht mal so schlecht” (lit. not (all that) bad). From many Germans that is the highest praise you can expect.
On the other hand the particle “ganz” which is objectively something that intensifies, in the context of praises and evaluations, it is normally a bad sign. “Ganz in Ordnung” is rather bad. You don’t won’t to hear “ganz gut” if you are a perfectionist. Because it means “everything considered ( you are a beginner, the weather was bad, I did not expect much anyway…) it is good”. And “ganz toll” is normally used sarcastically meaning: “Oh, that is just great, (I really wished to do the whole work again, thank you so much).”

Anonymous
Anonymous

It has been a year since i got in touch with your blog,… So helpful amd i thankful to u man

Yvonne Wittmann
Yvonne Wittmann

In response to person243 (second comment): What?! Really? I need to stop speaking German. Why hasn’t anyone ever told me about “ganz” before?! These are the kinds of things you don’t learn studying on your own. Okay, honestly I don’t speak much German anyway, but “ganz gut” or “ganz toll” is certainly something I would have felt confident enough to say —and may have said. Ugh!

Kat
Kat

It’s a little more complicated than that – because it can actually be used in a positive way, depending on context; for example, if a kid showed you a trick or played a piece on the piano for you or something, you would say “das hast du aber ganz toll gemacht” – and you’d mean it. Basically, “Great Job”!! If you’re not an almost fluent German speaker, I would probably recommend not to worry about these more idiomatic things too much – you’ll go crazy if you do!!!

Bill
Bill

This was a great topic. I have some German friends who are like family and over the years they have told me that after a really nice meal they will say “Nicht schlecht” or “nicht so schlecht” – almost tongue in cheek about the meal when in fact the meal was excellent – I have felt this is kind of a German thing in that they are very reserved about praise – but I could be wrong here. This to them is a very nice compliment to the chef/cook.
On the other hand we tried this in France one time with friends there and it was not well received. I think the French are a bit more touchy about this. I have also over time heard “ganz gut” and “ganz in Ordnung” and never felt that it was anything other than very good. Maybe I was misinterpreting but I don’t think so as it was directed at a nice job by their children.

berlingrabers

I think you always have to make allowances for tone and context with these kinds of expressions.

For my part, “not bad” sounds pretty positive to me in English, and I’d even use it (with the appropriate tone) to compliment something that is obviously excellent, like ze Germans might.

Katrin Knauer
Katrin Knauer

I totally disagree – if I were invited to a nice meal at someone’s house, I would most definitely NOT say “das war nicht schlecht” – I would find that utterly impolite! I would praise the meal probably even if I didn’t like it. Maybe it’s once again a regional thing – I know that Emmanuel is from Berlin, and honestly, Berliners do have a bit of a reputation for being rather gruff and grumpy…:-)

KatySAFC
KatySAFC

Hi Emanuel, thanks again – I really enjoyed this post. It’s true, these are the things that as a German learner are invaluable, but never appear in textbooks!

Please could I ask is ‘geht so’ the same as ‘passt schon’? I’m just wondering because I once apologised for my terrible German to a lady in a shop and she laughed and said, ‘passt schon!’.

Kat
Kat

In that context, she was saying “don’t worry about it”, whereas she wouldn’t have said “geht so”. So in this context, it had a different meaning, but they are actually sometimes interchangeable – for example, if someone asked you “Wie geht’s?” you could say “geht so” (slightly more negative) or “passt schon (or scho in Bavaria) – slightly more positive

cam147147
cam147147

ha ha, I use “geht so” often enough, and this explains why people always ask follow-up questions…

Katrin Knauer
Katrin Knauer

How did you come up with “sufficient” for a hair cut?? Now that sounds positively odd to me :-) Pretty sure no one would say that in English!

Ned
Ned

Hey Emanuel, thanks for all your useful posts.
It would be great, if you could also post some explanation in using “aber, doch, ja, schon” in German sentences. For example sometimes they say “das ist ja klar” or “das ist doch klar” and so on. I cannot figure it out, how to use them properly.

Jason
Jason

Just a quick one. Is there a good way of using the response ”geht so” for ”Wie gut ist dein Deutsch?” while specifying that it’s speaking that I’m currently not so good at (whereas reading/listening/understanding etc. I can do much better)? Because I totally always want to say this when I speak to people in Germany! ”Look, I know I sound like I have know idea how to speak German but I promise I can understand you and read die Bild Zeitung and laugh watching ZDF ! You gotta believe me man!”

berlingrabers

Would you also use “geht [or “passt”] so” in a situation where you’re trying to tell somebody, “It’s fine, doesn’t have to be perfect, stop fiddling with it”?

Anonymous
Anonymous

SUPER LECKER!!!!