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German Animal Expressions, Part II

German, like many languages, uses a lot of idioms referring to animals. You've probably heard some similar English expressions like "I'm in the dog house," or "to let the cat out of the bag."  Let's take a look today at some more German animal expressions, as continued from Part I.


Mann, du schläfst ja wie ein Bär!

Man, you sleep like a bear!

Caption 21, Meine Freundin Conni: Conni schläft im Kindergarten

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You occasionally see the idiom "to sleep like a bear" in English, but the far more common phrase is "to sleep like a log." Bears hibernate much of the winter, thus it means to sleep very deeply. Logs don't sleep at all, of course, but it suggests a person is sleeping so deeply and heavily that they resemble a log.


Sie will wissen, wie der Hase läuft.
She wants to be more experienced.


The literal translation is "to know how the hare runs." The expression has nothing to do with speed (hares being fast runners), but rather with the knowledge of knowing how they run so quickly. Thus the idiom means to have experience, knowledge, or wisdom. This is related to the next expression:


Du bist ein alter Hase.

You are very experienced.

Caption 33, Oskar: Gehen, wenn es am schönsten ist

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"To be an old hare" means you have a lot of experience, and is similar to the English expression "an old hand."


Judith hat doch hier mit ihrem Projekt fabulös die Kuh vom Eis geholt.

After all, Judith has, with her project here, saved the situation fabulously.

Captions 27-28, Lerchenberg: Sascha hautnah

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The literal translation is "to fetch the cow from the ice," meaning to have saved a precarious situation from disaster. Cows, as we saw in the previous lesson, are widely considered to be stupid animals, so it's no surprise that such sayings have them wandering out onto thin ice!


Ich bin tierisch reich.

I'm very rich.

Caption 15, Die Prinzen_ Alles nur geklaut

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Victorian English, at least judging from period films, made common use of the term "beastly" as an idiom meaning "very." So you'll have an Arctic explorer on the verge of freezing to death saying something like "I say, old chap, it's beastly cold up here!" The word sounds strange to modern ears, however, and is best translated with the simple "very."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the above videos to get a better idea of the contexts in which they have been used. You can also search the Redensarten-Index for more animal expressions. It's a good site to bookmark if you come across a German idiom whose meaning isn't clear!

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