“I think my pig’s whistling!”: Bizarre German animal words and phrases

It’s been a long time since I wrote a language post, but I’ve been collecting words and phrases over the months and could quite a few posts at long last!

I have noticed that a few of the words and phrases I have collected use animals, yet – most of the time – the words and phrases don’t actually have anything to do with that animal at all. So here are five words/phrases I have collected up together – enjoy! And, as usual, if anybody knows the etymology behind any of them – please do tell!


Staubmaus

Literally: “dust mouse”

Translation: “dust bunny”

This is one of those curious little things where the Germans say one thing and we say something so similar with a key difference – they talk about mice and we talk about bunnies. Though, by the sounds of it, the German balls of dust are smaller than our balls of dust. Anyway, moving on…


Mäusespeck

Literally: “mice bacon”

Translation: “marshmallow”

That was one of those beautiful moments of getting offered something you have no idea what is. I understood: “Would you like some mice bacon?” to which I nearly lied and said “Uh, no I’m a vegetarian”. Until I then realised it was just marshmallow. Phew! 


Ich glaube, mein Schwein pfeift.

Literally: “I think my pig is whistling.”

Translation: “You’re joking! / Blow me down! / I don’t believe it!”

What a wonderful phrase! Though not all that common (at least, I haven’t heard it that much at all) – it’s a phrase used to express disbelief. I think it’s used more in serious situations where something bad has happened… so let’s hope none of your pigs will be whistling anytime soon.

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Is he whistling?! I think he’s whistling! Image credit: — thornypup (https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelloudon/) – Subject to CC 2.0 License.

Affentheater

Literally: “ape theatre”

Translation: “crazy business”

Sticking to the ape theme – the Germans use “ape theatre” to refer to something that’s a bit crazy. I think you can use it if kids are arguing or something like that when mum or dad have just had enough: “What is this ape theatre?!”. Sounds quite entertaining, really!


Er rannte mit einem Affenzahn.

Literally: “He ran with an ape’s tooth.”

Translation: “He ran at breakneck speed/at the speed of light.”

I read this one whilst being a geek and reading a Nintendo magazine on the way to Italy. It’s one of those wonderful moments in language learning where you can’t at all work out what the hell the phrase is trying to say. It was about Super Mario, and it was talking about how he runs and jumps really quickly – I thought at first an “ape’s tooth” might be a new power-up in the upcoming game, similar to the mushroom and fire flower. Nope! It just means he can run really fast!

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No… I’m not sure on the link to high speed! Image credit: — Jordi Payà (https://www.flickr.com/photos/arg0s/) – Subject to CC 2.0 License.

 

 

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