Top 10 Best Food-Related Expressions in German

The German language has a ton of crazy expressions up its sleeve. By now, you’ve mastered the art of adding Backpfeifengesicht and Schadenfreude to your every day vocabulary. Let’s take it one step further with these hilarious food-related expressions!

1. Seinen Senf dazugeben

(lit.: to add one’s mustard)

To give your opinion on something even though you weren’t asked to do so. The English equivalent would be «to add your two cents«, although this expression is much more positive than its German counterpart.

The phrase originated in the 17th century. At that time, mustard was considered something very valuable. So, the innkeepers added a little mustard to every meal and made it something special. The only problem was that mustard did not go with every meal. Just as mustard was served with food without being required, people gave their opinions without anyone wanting to hear them.

2. Das ist mir Wurst

(lit.: that is sausage to me)

A fun way of saying, «I don’t care«. You can replace ‘wurst‘ with about anything – some people even say, «it’s banana to me«, but my personal favorite is «das ist mir Latte» because I’m a caffeine addict!

In the past, butchers who didn’t know what to do with the remains or leftovers of a slaughtered animal decided the fate of the sometimes less valuable meat with the phrase «put it in the sausage». And so the sausage was born. Unfortunately, its birth was accompanied by a bitter aftertaste. Namely, the reputation of being a product that arose from the cluelessness and indifference of the olden days’ butchers. The saying is based on this bad reputation and is still used in situations where the speaker doesn’t really know what to do or wants to express their complete indifference.

3. Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen

(lit.: to play the offended liver sausage)

Germans sure love sausage! We use this expression to refer to someone who’s pouting or sulking in a mocking tone. It implies that there is no reason to react in such an offended way to a certain situation.

Scholars in the middle ages assumed that all human emotions are controlled by the liver, such as joy, sadness or anger. Now, if a person was particularly angry about something, people assumed that the anger came from the liver. But how does one get from the liver to the liver sausage? It is said that a butcher took out all the other sausages from the cooking pot first before taking out the liver sausage. The liver sausage got offended and burst! Eventually, both stories combined into one idiom.

4. Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse spielenn(lit.: to play the princess on the pea)

Refers to someone who is very sensitive, touchy, or spoiled.

The expression can be traced back to a popular fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. In the story, a prince wanted to marry a «real» princess. To find the true princess, he had the woman sleep on 20 mattresses and put a small pea underneath them all. When the woman complained the next morning that she had lain on something hard, the prince knew she had to be a real princess because no one else could be quite as sensitive and spoiled as a true princess.

5. Der Dreikäsehochn(lit.: three-cheeses-high)nA small child. Adults usually use it to describe children who are clever and curious, but maybe a little too young for many other things.

The word «Dreikäsehoch» first appeared in the 18th century. In the Middle Ages, cheese was a food that many people knew and liked. That’s why even back then, people knew exactly what a wheel of cheese looked like and how big it was. Since meters and yards weren’t a thing yet, people measured things any way they could. So, if someone is only as high as three cheese wheels placed on top of each other, he is still very small.

6. Den Löffel abgebenn(lit: to pass the spoon)

To pass away. The closest English equivalent would be to kick the bucket.

The spoon represented the vital activity of eating and was, at the same time, the most precious possession of the eater. In the Middle Ages, everyone had their own spoon, which was hung on a board on the wall. The one who hung the spoon on the board had finished his meal. The one who gave up/put down/threw away/dropped the spoon excluded himself from the dinner table. The end of life is described in comparison to never eating again.

7. Mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen

(lit: it’s not good to eat cherries with him)

You would say this about a person you don’t get along with, or who isn’t particularly nice to be around.

The saying comes from the Middle Ages when cherries were still very rare and expensive. Only better-off people could afford the sweet fruit and occasionally met to eat cherries together. However, if they discovered uninvited or unsophisticated guests among them, these were spat at with cherry stones and stems until they had disappeared again; it was simply not good to eat cherries with them.

8. Sich von jemand eine Scheibe abschneiden

(lit: to cut a slice off of someone)

To be more like someone else, to learn something from someone else.

The real origin of the phrase is quite obscure, but it is assumed that it stems from cheese. A popular saying back in the days was: «Ein guter Käse– davon schneidet sich jeder gerne eine Scheibe ab» (Good cheese, everyone will want a slice of one). Are you a good cheese? I may want a slice!

9. Jemandem Honig ums Maul schmierenn(lit: to smear honey around somebody’s mouth)

To butter someone up or, the more vulgar version, to crawl up someone’s behind.

The expression goes back to bear training in earlier times. Bears were once an attraction at fairs and the circus, where they were trained to perform tricks. If the dancing bears performed well, they were rewarded with honey. This motivated the sweet-toothed bears to perform their tricks time and again.

10. auf den Keks/Zeiger gehen

(lit: to go on the cookie/clockhand)

To annoy someone. It is usually used when the annoying person breaks your last thread of patience.

It is assumed that this expression, which became fashionable in Berlin around 1900, probably comes from youth or at least colloquial language. Initially, people said, «that gets on my nerves», or «he tramples on my nerves». Someone then realized that you could replace the word with just about anything while keeping its meaning. Others thought the cookie variant was so funny that it became incredibly widespread. And that’s just how the cookie crumbles!

Are you hungry to use your new German food expressions? Challenge yourself to use one in a conversation today! Which one is your favorite?

If you want to learn more about the German language’s idiosyncracies or would like to start language lessons with the Geres team, get in touch now!

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