German Advent Calendar 4 – Getting even

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Getting even

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Hello everyone,

day four of our Advent Calendar, and today it’s time for one of our traditions in the Advent Calendar – a word that starts with qu.
Yeah, it’s… it’s like the third year in a row, so this is a tradition now :).
German actually has quite a few nice words with qu, and today, we’ll take a look at

quitt

Looks a lot like quiet, and even more like quite. And even more more like to quit.
And indeed they are all related. But none of them quite fit quitt.

The origin of the family is the obscurely ancient Indo-European root *kweie- which was about resting, being quiet.
In the Slavic languages, it became кои (koj) and in the Germanic branch, it became the origin of die Weile (while), which originally meant a period of rest.
That’s kind of nice. Like…

“When will you be done with the assignment?”
“That’s gonna take a period of rest and repose, boss. So you better not disturb me.”

Anyway, what matters for us is the Latin branch. Specifically, the word quietus. Because besides the original sense of rest and repose, this was also used in a sense of “free of burden“. Which makes a lot of sense. If we don’t have a burden or obligation, we’re usually much more relaxed and peaceful.

And that’s how we got the words we have today. Quiet is more about the original sense of calm, while to quit evolved from the idea of “getting away from a burden“. And quite originally meant something like clear, free and then toward clearly, without a doubt and eventually it became the intensifier it is today.

And what about quitt?

Well, the German quitt focused on free of burden in the sense of having settled a score, and so it is essentially a translation for even. Yes, another one.

  • “Du hast mein Bier getrunken?!”
    “Ja, du hast meinen Jogurt gegessen. Jetzt sind wir quitt.”
  • “You drank my beer?!”
    “Yes, you ate my yogurt. Now we’re even.”

  • “Ich schulde dir noch 10 Euro.”
    “Ach Quatsch, lad mich auf ein Bier ein, und wir sind quitt.”
  • “I still owe you 10 Euro.”
    “Ah, nonsense. Just pay me a beer and we’re even.”

“Wir sind quitt.” – it actually works pretty well to think of that as “We’re quiet/at peace.“, if you need another mental connection.
Now, we should note that the way we used it in the examples is pretty much the ONLY way to use quitt… “Wir sind quitt”. So you do NOT say “I am quitt”, and you also don’t say stuff like “I want to be quitt” or “I want to make us quitt.” or whatever.
Only, wir sind quitt.
This phrase is fairly common in daily life though and it’s a nice addition to your vocabulary.

And what you’ll also see sooner or later is the noun die Quittung, which translate to the receipt.
It is basically a paper that verifies that you paid for something you received. Which is NOT the same as a Rechnung (bill). A Rechnung is a paper that tells you how much you owe, a Quittung is a paper that certifies that you paid what you owed… a paper that acquits you.

In daily life, the Rechnung is often also treated like the Quittung, but in the world of accounting there’s definitely a difference.

Anyway, that’s it for today.
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions or if you’ve seen quitt in daily life.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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