17 Funny German Phrases: Playing the Insulted Sausage, Having Pig and More
Idioms and pithy expressions often provide insight into the speakers of a language and what the culture values.
And if nothing else, they often sound hilarious.
Either way, there’s no better way to showcase your German skills and impress the natives than by rattling off an appropriately timed funny German phrase—and you’ll find plenty of potential ones in this post.
- 1. Da liegt der Hund begraben. (That’s where the dog’s buried.)
- 2. Kein Schwein war da. (Not a pig was there.)
- 3. Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen. (Where fox and hare say goodnight to one another.)
- 4. Das ist mir Wurst. (That’s sausage to me.)
- 5. Sie hat einen Vogel. (She has a bird.)
- 6. Sie hat nicht alle Tassen im Schrank. (She doesn’t have all her cups in the cupboard.)
- 7. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. (I only understand train station.)
- 8. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei. (Everything has an end. Only the sausage has two.)
- 9. Er spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst. (He’s playing the insulted sausage.)
- 10. Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau. (My English is under all pig.)
- 11. Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof. (Life is no pony farm.)
- 12. Er griff ins Gras (He bit into the grass.)
- 13. Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier. (To sleep like a woodchuck.)
- 14. Das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen. (You can tell that to your grandmother.)
- 15. Null-acht-fünfzehn (Zero, eight, fifteen)
- 16. Die Kirche im Dorf lassen. (To leave the church in the village.)
- 17. Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr. (What little Johnny can’t learn, John will never learn.)
- German Sayings: Where Pork and Language Come Together
- And One More Thing...
1. Da liegt der Hund begraben. (That’s where the dog’s buried.)
Normally dead dogs are an occasion for sadness and lost childhood innocence, but the Germans use the subject toward more matter-of-fact means.
Translating as “That’s the heart of the matter,” it may sound funny to us, but in German it’s a useful sentence to show that you really know what the situation is about.
2. Kein Schwein war da. (Not a pig was there.)
For the rest of civilization, the absence of swine is a prerequisite of a good place. Not so in sausage-savoring Germany. If there were no pigs, it means that nobody was there. A pigless-party is the worst kind in Germany.
We might instead say “it was dead” or “not a soul was there” in English.
3. Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen. (Where fox and hare say goodnight to one another.)
Do they kiss before going to bed? Is it a secret rendezvous? Do their partners suspect it?
We’ll never know, because where the fox and hare say goodnight to each other is in the middle of nowhere. While we might have relatives that live “out in the sticks” or “out in the boondocks,” the Germans have a more poetic way of designating a remote area.
4. Das ist mir Wurst. (That’s sausage to me.)
A very artful way of saying that you don’t care at all, this is considered even stronger than Das ist mir egal (That doesn’t matter to me).
Still, a little ironic, because we know how much Germans actually care about sausage…
5. Sie hat einen Vogel. (She has a bird.)
America has crazy cat ladies. In Germany, it’s the people with birds you have to look out for. “Einen Vogel haben” is a fun way of saying that someone is a bit too eccentric or has a screw loose.
According to some sources, the saying comes from an old folk belief that the mentally ill had small animals living in their heads. Hence, saying someone has a bird is the equivalent of calling them insane.
6. Sie hat nicht alle Tassen im Schrank. (She doesn’t have all her cups in the cupboard.)
As long as we’re thinking of ways to call someone “crazy”, here’s another one suggesting someone is odd, unusual or strange.
Obviously, Germans being a prepared and orderly people, anyone who does not keep all of their drinking vessels in the appropriately designated place in the kitchen is not right in the head. Let’s not even get started on the silverware, which has you mixing up your genders to boot…
7. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. (I only understand train station.)
I’ll admit, I don’t know the word for “train station” in very many languages, but apparently the Germans do (perhaps so they can berate the trains for not being timely).
Regardless, this idiom comes in handy when you don’t understand something in the slightest, similar to the English saying: “It’s all Greek to me.”
If you keep an eye (and ear) out for phrases like this, you’ll definitely hear them used by native speakers, even in the world of German media like movies and vlogs! You can even learn German idioms in context with FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
8. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei. (Everything has an end. Only the sausage has two.)
If you’re going to say that all good things must come to an end, you might as well do it with style and in a way that your countrymen are going to understand. And who can argue with the logic?
9. Er spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst. (He’s playing the insulted sausage.)
Yet another meaty expression, this time to describe someone who’s in a huff or sulking. Why have a cow when you can act like a wronged piece of pork? Maybe she was told she had a bird…
10. Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau. (My English is under all pig.)
Pigs, although lucky and conducive to a good German party atmosphere, are not that great for language learning. To say in German “My English is under all pig” is to suggest that it’s really bad, and to say it in English proves its own point.
11. Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof. (Life is no pony farm.)
Life isn’t a rose garden. Apparently, it’s also not a place you can take your kids for rides. As you can tell, Germany is a country of both equestrian enthusiasts and realists.
12. Er griff ins Gras (He bit into the grass.)
Purportedly tracing back to the “Iliad” and “Aeneid,” this term was originally associated with the death of soldiers. In English and French one would say “bite the dust,” a similar phrase perhaps coined in drier weather.
13. Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier. (To sleep like a woodchuck.)
It appears that chucking wood (if a woodchuck could chuck wood) is a really tiring activity—hey, they have to snooze all winter. As a result, to sleep like a woodchuck is “to sleep like a baby”.
14. Das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen. (You can tell that to your grandmother.)
This saying fits if you’re convinced that the person who has just told you something is lying or over-exaggerating.
You might think grandmas are too sweet and kind to lie to, or even that you grandma might be naïve enough to believe you—either way, you dare them to pass it on to their grandma if they say it’s really true!
15. Null-acht-fünfzehn (Zero, eight, fifteen)
Alright, so this isn’t technically a complete saying or so funny in the English translation, but once you know the story behind it, it’s hilarious.
Coming from the typical rifle given out during WWI (the 08-15), the numbers have come to be a clever code to describe something mediocre or run-of-the-mill. Whether a date or a score on a test, nul acht funfzehn indicates the results were rather “standard issue” and nothing to write home about.
16. Die Kirche im Dorf lassen. (To leave the church in the village.)
I don’t know where else you would take the church, but it’s universally agreed upon that its place is in the village. Telling someone to leave it there is to tell them not get carried away. After all, there are strict building ordinances in Germany.
17. Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr. (What little Johnny can’t learn, John will never learn.)
An old dog can’t learn new tricks, and neither can John. That’s why in Germany one often sees old people walking the streets in the middle of the day…there’s nothing new for them to do.
German Sayings: Where Pork and Language Come Together
Pigs get a bad rap in English. They’re associated with smelliness, untidiness and greed. They’re used as an insult for those who eat too much and men who behave like chauvinists. Even after “Charlotte’s Web” and “Babe,” they’re still the least respected animal on the farm.
Not so in Germany.
If language is a reflection of culture, then there’s no doubt about the swine’s place in the Fatherland. To have a stroke of luck in Germany is Schwein haben , or “to have pig.”
If you don’t yet know someone well enough to forgo formalities, you can tell them that you have “not yet kept pigs together” by saying Wir haben zusammen noch keine Schweine gehütet! You might hear this phrase if you try to duzen too soon, that is, to use the du (informal “you”) form with them, as opposed to the formal Sie.
There are supposedly 1,200 kinds of sausage in Germany. There might be just as many idioms involving it.
Now that you’re through chuckling at these handy German phrases, you can put them to work in earning the respect of the natives and making your language learning authentic.
The more you listen to these phrases being used, the more likely they are to become natural to you.
Spice up the conversation with a little idiomatic color and put things in terms Germans understand. The sausage may have two ends, but learning German doesn’t have any.
And, for good measure, you might want to get yourself a pig.
And One More Thing...
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