Advent Calendar 18 – “Piggy Idioms”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: February 11, 2021

Hello everyone,

day ___ of our Advent Calendar and today, we’ll get a little boost for our idiomaticness… wait, idiomaticness… is that even a word?
Anyway, today we’ll learn two really really cool and useful idiomatic expressions. And not just any idiomatic expressions but idiomatic expressions involving an animal. And not just any animal, but the pig. And not just any pig but the cute little… okay, actually it’s any pig :).

The pig is probably one of the most common animals for expressions all over the world. And the thing they’re most known for, and hence the most common topic for pig-idioms  is their ability to do calculus.

  • Wow, du hast die Stammfunktion wie ein Schwein errechnet.
  • Wow, you calculated that primitive integral like a pig.

Okay…. of course I’m kidding. This is NOT what you’d say in German.
I mean, they ARE really good at calculus (I had one do my homework back in the day), but the thing they’re usually associated with is that they’re dirty. And German has a bunch of variations over that theme.

  • Thomas isst wie ein Schwein.
  • Thomas eats like a pig.
  • Räum mal auf, Alter. Dein Zimmer ist voll der Schweinestall.
  • Tidy up, man. Your room is a pig stall.

And the first idiom I want to show you is probably loosely based on this.
The first one is kein Schwein  and it is a common, colloquial way to say nobody.
The original idea was probably something like “Not even a pig (or pig like person) …” but it doesn’t sound as strong anymore.

  • Diese Regeln kann doch kein Schwein merken.
  • Come on, no one can remember those rules.
  • Die Sänger der Oper ist viel zu laut. Da kann sich ja kein Schwein mehr unterhalten.
  • The singers of the opera are way too loud. How’s one supposed to have a conversation like that.
    no one can talk to each other here (lit.)

I mean, it is still rough, but it’s not at all vulgar or offensive and there’s actually a quite famous song with it. I’ll put a link below, but first, let’s look at the other expression: Schwein haben.
Literally, it is “to have a pig” and believe it or not, here the pig is a synonym for…  luck.
Yes, luck. Schwein haben essentially means to be lucky. Actually, the pig is a symbol for luck in general, just like a four leave clover.

It’s actually no exactly clear where this notion and the phrasing Schwein haben come from and there are several theories. One says, that Schwein was a synonym for a very high value card in a card game. Another theory says that it was because at some medieval competitions you’d get a pig when you finish last, so you got something good without doing something for it.
And even though these sound already super convincing, but my favorite theory is my own… Schwein haben was coined by young scholars when they were allowed to bring their pet pig with them to the calculus exam.
Tadah. #originsolved #comingfullcircle
Anyway, examples…

  • Ich hatte voll Schwein in der Prüfung, weil die Fälle nicht rankamen.
  • I was really lucky at the math exam because the cases weren’t addressed.
  • Schwein gehabt.
  • I was/you were lucky.

Schwein haben is super super common in daily life and you should start start using it.
And in case your significant other asks you to not eat like a pig when with their parents at Christmas just say: “Freu dich doch, dass du Schwein hast.”
They’ll be convinced. Probably :).
And that’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed it. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments,
have a great day and bis morgen.

Here’s the link to video to the “Kein Schwein” song.  (if it ends up as an embed, it’s not my fault, dear lawyers)



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