Advent Calendar 12- “I Broke German”

“broke German”

Hey everyone,

welcome to door 12 of our German Advent Calendar, and behind it is the word that describes many people’s financial situation after all that Christmas shopping. The German word for broke. No, it’s not gebrochen.
It is pleite. And it can actually be both, broke and bankrupt.

  • Ich bin pleite.
  • I’m broke.
  • Am Monatsende ist Maria immer komplett pleite.
  • At the end of the months, Maria is always completely broke.

  • Die Stadt ist de facto pleite.
  • The town is in fact bankrupt.

  • Die Firma ist wegen dem Shitstorm fast pleite gegangen.
  • The company almost went bankrupt because of the shitstorm.

As you can see, the usage is pretty much the same as in English. You are pleite and you go pleite.
But unlike broke,  pleite can also be a noun, die Pleite, and that is not limited to financial context but can be used as a colloquial term for failure, let down.

  • Das war eine totale Pleite.
  • That was nothing/a total failure.

Now, pleite pleite… if you’ve some experience with mind yoga, you’ll agree that it sounds a bit like to plead. Which would make sense. I mean… when you’re broke, you’ll likely do some pleading.
But pleite is actually a Yiddish word and it is based on the Hebrew word pelēṭā which meant the successful escape. Which is kind of what you’d need back in the day when you couldn’t pay your debts to that sketchy loan shark.
But yeah… in our minds we can just connect to  to plead. I mean… who is etymology to tell us what is related to what? A science? Pshhhhh. Bitch, puhleeeeeeze…. … … …
Oh man, that just ruined it, I guess.
But, boy was I close. I almost did it. I almost managed to write up a nice, conventional, family friendly piece without any swearing or crazy-ness.
Well, I shall try anew on the morrow :).
Let me know in the comments, if you have any questions.
Schönen Tag und bis morgen.

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Südkoreaner
Südkoreaner
3 years ago

Ich mag deine Audiodateien total
Danke sehr

Tim Muller
Tim Muller
4 years ago

Actually, ‘effectively’ is probably what I’d say in English if I wanted to say ‘de facto’ in another way.

Tim Muller
Tim Muller
4 years ago

Ich bin spät zur Party gekommen, aber:

Die Stadt ist de facto pleite.
The town is in fact bankrupt.

Auf Englisch ist ‘de facto’ kein Synonym für ‘in fact’ (‘in effect’/’in practice’ sind näher). Oder zumindest ist das nicht das genaue Sinn, in dem ich es normalerweise höre. Ist die deutsche Bedeutung vielleicht ein bisschen anders?

Tim Muller
Tim Muller
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

(Switching to English as it’s late and slightly hard to explain)

The most common use for ‘de facto’ in English (at least NZ English) is to describe couples who are living together, financially interdependent, may have children together etc etc, but aren’t legally married. So the ‘de facto’ kind of means they’re married in all respects except legally. So ‘in practice’ fits quite well, at least in that context.

It’s a subtle distinction, but as I said, I wouldn’t use ‘in fact’ as synonymous.

Of course, the German ‘de facto’ may have a quite different emphasis and/or meaning.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
4 years ago

I rather like the term for bankruptcy: der Bankrott . . . . makes me think of rotten banks! Oh yes, a little bit of a diversion:

What’s the collective noun for Bankers?
A wunch of Bankers.

(think about it)

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I never “got” it – finally gave in and googled it – I would have NEVER guessed but it makes perfect sense when I read it.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago

If I wanted “a nice, conventional, family friendly piece without any swearing or crazy-ness”, I’d watch Disney movies – your site is GREAT and really cuts the boring crap, gets to the point and Teaches German! And it’s a hoot! Adding to the fun are all the subscribers, who are equally interested in languages and all seem to have very receptive “language sensors”. Keep spewing irreverent comments and don’t forget at spoonful of unicorns every now and then!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
4 years ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

I’ll second that.

Rob
Rob
4 years ago

If you are Pleite, you are in plight. Be polite.

person243
person243
4 years ago

“pleite”, that reminds me of the national animal or the animal on the coat of arms of Germany. (“Wappentier” in German)
I know everybody likes heraldics. So here some famous animals symbolizing countries:
The Gallic rooster for France.
The lion for England. (I think Wales has a dragon, so that can’t be for the whole UK or is it?)
New Zealand has the kiwi.
Australia the kangaroo.
Russia the brown bear.
The USA is very often symbolized by the bald eagle.
And Germany also goes with an eagle, but we have a lovely word for it:
“der Pleitegeier” (unoffical name of the German national animal)
“Geier” means vulture and “Pleite” was just explained. It is an ironic way to emphasize the high debts of the country.
The word is also used proverbial in the context of a nearing bankruptcy for anybody.
“Die Pleitegeier kreisen schon.” = “The bancruptcy is imminent.” (lit. “The vultures of bankruptcy are already circling (above).”)

tohaklim
4 years ago

A Yiddish word to denote bankruptcy, what are the odds

badradbrad
4 years ago

Hallo Emmanuel, Ich habe einen Frage über das vierte Beispiel. Die Präposition <> verwendet einen Objekt in der Genetiv-Kasus. Warum nicht <>?

Stuart Bromley
Stuart Bromley
4 years ago

There’s also the similar sounding word in English, plight which can mean promise or pledge or risk. My dictionary says it is obsolete but it is used quite often in phrases like “the plight (fate) of the victims is unknown.”

OJ
OJ
4 years ago

I could be wrong, but I remember what I read in the textbook was wegen+genitive…so maybe ”Die Firma ist wegen dem Shitstorm fast pleite gegangen’ should be ‘Die Firma ist wegen des Shitstorms fast pleite gegangen’ instead?
PS: I really love this site. Gut gemacht! (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧

aoind
aoind
4 years ago
Reply to  OJ

Haben Sie nicht gehört? “Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod”, ne? (Der Dativ ist der Tod des Genitivs). Ich bin mir nicht sicher, aber ich glaube es ist eine Art von Witz. Auch der Titel eines Buches verfasst von Bastian Sick.

aoind
aoind
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

OK Emanuel. I won’t!

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

I am still learning German, but I remember what I read in the text book was wegen+genetive…so maybe ‘Die Firma ist wegen dem Shitstorm fast pleite gegangen’ should be ‘Die Firma ist wegen des Shitstorms fast pleite gegangen’? Please check :-)
PS: I really love this site. Well done! (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oder… der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod ;)
kkkkk

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

Love your work. Wie immer!

Tinbum
Tinbum
4 years ago

Sehr interessant! Trotzdem würde ich sagen, dass auf Englisch buchstabieren wir es ‘Yiddish’