Advent Calendar 19 – “Nihilism”

 

Hallo ihr lieben

day 19 of our little German Advent Calendar, today with a look at a really important bit of language in our ever faster moving world where everyone screams news at you all the time. We’ll learn how to say:

“I don’t care.”

And the absolute must have for that is the word egal.
Now many of you are like “Hey, that’s like equal.” And yes, they are brothers. But German egal has had a slight shift in meaning.
And by slight I mean biiiig.

  • All men are equal.
  • Alle Menschen sind egal.

The English version is about everyone having the same worth and rights. The German version looks the same. But what it really means is more like what a movie villain would say.

Yeah… Bond villains often have weird accents :).

Seriously though…  Egal has no connection to equality anymore. used to be just like the English word. But it focused on that something is the same to you and then at some point it crossed over to the idea of “not mattering”. That’s what it is today.
And the proper word for the idea of equality became gleich, which by the way is pretty much like, just with a ge. But I digress.

So, if you say that something is “egal” you’re saying that it doesn’t matter.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.

  • “Welches Kleid soll ich für die Party auswählen – rot oder blau?”
    “Das ist egal. Du siehst in beiden furchtbar aus.”
  • “Which dress should I pick for the party – red or blue?”
    “Doesn’t matter. You look like a disaster in both.”

  • Egal, wie viel du lernst und übst  – du wirst immer Fehler machen.
  • No matter, how much you study and practice – you’ll always make mistakes.

Gee, what’s with these examples? They’re so negative and discouraging. And they hate America. Who wrote that? … what?… the intern? Oh.. well, tell him he’s on coffee watch for the next 6 months… what?…  he’s new?! IST MIR EGAL!! My phone is new, too, and it works just fine. Double shot almond mocchaccino on my desk, ASAP. Seriously.
Anyway, what was our topic again? Oh yeah, how to say “I don’t care”. And I actually just did it. All we need is to add a mir to what we just learned. So instead of saying “Something doesn’t matter” we say “Something doesn’t matter to me.”

  • Etwas ist mir egal.
  • I don’t care about something. /Something doesn’t matter to me.
    (lit.) Something is the same to me.

  • Ob du Lust hast oder nicht ist mir egal – wir gehen heute in die Oper und basta.
  • It doesn’t matter to me whether you want to or not – we will go to the opera today, full stop.

  • Du bist mir nicht egal.
  • You do matter to me.
  • “Soll ich Wein mitbringen oder Bier?”
    “Ist mir egal, ich mag beides.”
  • “Should I bring wine or beer?”
    “Same to me, I like both.”

And this is the number one way to say “I don’t care.”
Are there colloquial alternatives? Of course. First, there are a few words you can put in for egal. The most famous one is… drumroll…. Wurst. Yup, Wurst can replace egal. Which is really weird considering how much Germans like their sausage. Anyway, reason, shmeason, Christmas season.

  • “Ich habe keinen Bock.”
    “Das ist mir Wurst.” (in Berlin you also say Wuascht)
  • “I don’t wanna.”
    “I don’t care.”
    Lit.:That is sausage to me.

Another common one is Latte and in Berlin people also say Schnurz and Schnuppe, and I bet there are lots of regional variants.
Of course, you can also make your statement stronger by adding the usual suspects… ganz, total, kack- and scheiß.

  • Das ist mir kackegal/scheißegal. 
  • I don’t give a shit.

And last but not least there’s this phrasing.

  • Das geht mir am Arsch vorbei.
  • I don’t give a shit about that.

which literally means that something passes you by by your butt.
And that’s it. Now you know how to say “I don’t care.” in German.

What about you? Did you know it already? Have you heard other regional options for egal?
And oh and then there was this recent  incident in China . What’s your opinion on it? Let me know in the comments below and win a little give-away.  And let me know in German ;).
Schönen Tag und bis morgen.

Oh and to make sure, you never forget “Is mir egal” again, here’s a little song. It’s from an ad campaign of the BVG, the Berlin public transport company. Viel Spaß.

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Daryna
Daryna
5 years ago

And are this phases with Wurst/Latte/Schnurz common in modern spoken language? In Russian/Ukrainian we also have such expression – это мне по барабану/das ist mir Trommel (not the best translation, but you get my idea). Nowadays it not so popular and sounds like something old.

norfede
norfede
5 years ago

We actually have a phrase that’s the same as “Das geht mir am Arsch vorbei” in Spanish (well at least I’ve heard it in Paraguay but I think that it comes from Argentina). It’s “Me pasa por el culo” but it is of course pretty harsh

TimM
TimM
5 years ago

Wie wuerde man “ist nicht egal” in Englisch uebersetzen?

Oben hast du:
– Du bist mir nicht egal.
– You do matter to me.

Aber im Lied scheint es mir, das “ist nicht egal’ ‘that’s not ok’ bedeutet.

Muss man das immer vom Kontext ausmachen?

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

LOL!!!! Es tut mir leid :-)

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Here is one for you : https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KGcA7BrU1Ng Is mir egal!! :-)

Ned
Ned
5 years ago

A German told me once; The idea behind saying “Wurst” with the same meaning as “egal” is that the both ends of a sausage look the same, so it really doesn’t matter! :D

osssman
5 years ago

Ich liebe dein blog!

TimM
TimM
5 years ago

Ich hoffe, dass alles bei dir und deiner Familie in Ordnung ist!

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

My prayers go out to all those affected by the Berlin Christmas market attack. Berlin Strong!

formaneka
formaneka
5 years ago

I was so sorry to hear of the attack at the Weinachtsmarkt. Hoping you and all your readers are OK after this sickening incident.

Paul E Ramoni Jr
Paul E Ramoni Jr
5 years ago

Wann in China ein Sack Reis runterfällt, macht es ein Geräusch?
Das ist mir Wurst.

Félix LeChien
Félix LeChien
5 years ago

Funny that French stands halfway between German and English on this one. The French expression “Ça m’est égal” is the exact translation for “Es ist mir egal”. But anywhere else, “égal” means “equal”. Und ich gebe es zu: umgefallene Säcke Reis sind mir egal…

Félix LeChien
Félix LeChien
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Of course, you can make it stronger by adding an adverb (which, in such a case, should be called an ad-adjective!): “ça m’est complètement égal”, “ça m’est totalement égal”, or any other colloquial adverb like “vachement”, “diablement”, “sacrément”, “foutrement” or “fichtrement” for example. Then there are strong familiar expressions like “je m’en fous” and “je m’en fiche” (or “je m’en contrefous/contrefiche”, which are one step stronger), or “je n’en ai rien à cirer”. In Québec, one would say “je m’en câlisse” (making the “â” a long vowel), but nobody would understand outside Canada!

Katrin Knauer
Katrin Knauer
5 years ago

So ganz ist die Bedeutung von “egal” im Sinne von gleich aber nicht verloren gegangen, denn man kann statt “ist mir egal” auch “ist mir gleich” sagen. Wird nicht sehr haeufig verwendet, aber ist durchaus noch nicht total aus dem Sprachgebrauch verschwunden!

Renuka
Renuka
5 years ago

What is the difference between “Das ist egal” and “das macht nichts”. Is the latter not used that much?

Andrew MacDonald
5 years ago

Ich mag die Video, “Is mir egal.”

person243
person243
5 years ago

As for the connection to “equal”, for all the Scrabble enthusiasts, there is the word “inegal” which means “not equal” but is really really rare. Many Germans probably don’t know it. So for learning the language, the word is Schnurz Piep egal.

berlingrabers
5 years ago

Die “Wurst”-Variante habe ich bisher nur als “Wurscht” gehört, sowohl von Berlinern als auch von anderen Deutschen. So habe ich es auch in der Schule gelernt.

Katrin Knauer
Katrin Knauer
5 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Sehe ich auch so; das wird eh nur im gesprochenen Deutsch verwendet und da hab ich auch noch nie “Wurst” gehoert, sondern immer “Wurscht”