Advent Calendar 12 – “Idio_s”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: February 11, 2021


Hey guys

day 12 of our epic Advent Calender. And if you’ve already been a reader last year and the year before that, then you’ll know that the Epic German Advent Calendar wouldn’t be The Epic German Advent Calendar without at least one post about German politics.
So today, I’ll tell you a bit about what is going on in the Bezirksverordnetenversammlung and what these idiots have decid…
okay, I’m kidding, of course.
What we really need in this calendar are

some nice, colorfuGerman idioms

Today, I’ll give you three of those.
And the first one might come in handy when the Christmas dinner table discussion is in danger of getting out of control.

“Der Ton macht die Musik.”

Literally, this means that it’s the tone that makes the music. Which is kind of duhhhhh.
But the real meaning is this:

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

It matters HOW you say something. Like… you can have great arguments, the perfect arguments, you can have all the facts on your side, if you say it in a wrong way, the other person will have a really hard time accepting it.
Ironically, the German version does sound a tad bit patronizing. So unless the discussion is already somewhat heated, I’d stay away from it. But yeah… it’s a pretty common idiom that every German understands.
Cool…. what…
“Where are the examples? Give us examples.”
Uh… no.
“But a good teacher gives examples so we know how to use it in practice.”
Yeah, maybe, but der Ton macht die Musik. No example for you.
“But we’re paying for your site.”
Oh… right. Of course, I’ll give you as many examples as you want. It’s my pleasure…
Now, you might be wondering what I am saying… well, that was basically an real life example for what the second idiom is about :).
Here it is….

“Wes’ Brot ich ess, des’ Lied ich sing.”

Wes’ is a old fashioned, shortened version for wessen  and des’ is a shortened version of dessen and the literal translation of the idiom would be something like this. “Whose bread I eat, their song I’ll sing.” And I think you all got the idea. It basically talks about the opportunistic streak we all have in us. Apparently, the English version is

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

But this is kind of twisted, though. Like… you have many people competing to pay one piper, probably minimum wage. In German on the other hand you basically have one person deciding what to play by handing out bread to many. That’s just closer to how the world works. And at least to my ears, the German one sounds a bit playful and that combined with the message and the first person perspective gives it a much higher weasel-factor, if you know what I mean :).
Anyway, the saying sounds a bit old fashioned and it’s not as common, but everyone understands it and I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities to use it. And it’s a nice example for the Genitive case.
Hey and speaking of case… that’s brings us right to the last idiom. Because that is making a case for getting a second drink.

“Auf einem Bein kann man nicht stehen.”

Literally, it means that you can’t stand on one leg. Which is technically not true. I mean… most of us can stand on one leg just fine, unless we’re totally hammered. But who cares about the biological reality – it sure sounds convincing, so next time you are pondering with your friend whether to get a second one just use it and it is decided.
I was trying to think of a way to modify it for the third drink… maybe something like “Auf zwei Beinen kann man keinen Liegestütz (push up) machen.“. It’s untested yet, but try it with your German friends and let me know how they reacted.
Anyway, that’s it for today :).
If you have a good translation for any of these, let me know in the comments.
Schönen Tag euch, und bis morgen.

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