A language’s idioms and local expressions are always fun to learn and use. They can enrich your speech to appear more sophisticated; similarly they may also attract listeners or even make them laugh. However, sometimes it is difficult to just memorize all the idioms and local expressions. Perhaps this is due to the fact that there is no equivalent word or phrase for certain idioms or phrases between languages. What’s more, such expressions don’t occur that often in everyday speech, so maybe they create problems when it comes to using them correctly and in the right situation.
In my opinion, the German language in particular, has a lot of phrases that at first glance can seem kind of strange to many people from all over the world. Lately, I also found out that there are many expressions and idioms in the German language that are connected to a bunch of random words, for instance die Geige (violin).
So I made a list of common phrases that have this word to show you how much easier your studying can be and how your vocabulary can improve if you only arrange it using an ordering system or categories. I think it might be a good idea to share my observations with those of you who have always struggled with new expressions. So how much does a violin have to do with German? Let's take a look.
Die erste Geige spielen
This expression is rather generic and very easy to explain in English. It basically means "to play the first fiddle", or to have the leading role (actually, it's possible to say die erste Rolle spielen in German as well). Some people use the quote "Wenn alle die erste Geige spielen wollen, kommt kein Orchester zusammen", which translates in English as “When everyone wants to play the first fiddle, no orchestra will come together”.
Die zweite Geige spielen
Analogically and as in English, "to play the second fiddle", means to be less important than someone else or in a weaker position. Er spielt immer die zweite Geige neben seiner Schwester. He always takes the back seat compared to his sister.
Let's look at some more interesting examples.
Nach jemandes Geige tanzen
In English this means “to dance after someone's fiddle” (this exists in German too, as you can also say nach jemandes Pfeife tanzen). This expression means that someone complies with every demand of another person.
Jemandem seine Meinung geigen
Although we could just say jemandem seine Meinung sagen (to tell somebody one's own opinion), this expression implies that your opinion is neither neutral nor nice. If you want to speak out on an issue you don't like or you are angry with, geigen in this case means that you will talk directly about it and not necessarily in a polite way.
This means "to fail, to lose or to mess up", as many German verbs starting with ver- imply some failure, fiasco, or lack of intended results (many but not all of course). Please compare:
- vergeigen, versagen (to fail or to break down).
- sich versprechen (to misspeak, to trip over one's tongue).
- sich verlesen (to read wrongly).
- sich verlaufen/sich verirren (to get lost).
But there is also:
- verstehen (to understand).
- versprechen (to promise).
- verstecken (to hide).
- vernichten (to blast, to destroy).
Literally, Arschgeige consists of the words "arse" and "violin", but in fact, it means Dummkopf, Trottel, Depp (“fool” in English, or any way you can name a stupid person or someone you are mad at). Does that make any sense even for Germans? No, I don't think so. But still, it is a funny word. Du Arschgeige! or just Du Arsch!
(!) Be careful (!) as this word is a very colloquial and pejorative in expression.
Jemandem hängt der Himmel voller Geigen
Is there anything more beautiful and delighting than a heaven full of violins? We can use this expression to talk about someone who feels very positive, overjoyed, or even euphoric. A good equivalent for that would be:
- Die Dinge durch die rosarote Brille sehen.
- To see things through rose-colored glasses.
- Die ganze Zeit siehst du alles nur durch die rosarote Brille.
- You always see everything through rose-colored glasses.
Seine Geige einpacken
This one I came across by accident when I was searching on the Internet and making sure that there was no other important info missing in my article. I found the phrase cool, but to be honest, I've never heard it before. It's supposed to mean something like "It's home time!" Feierabend! It’s used at the end of the workday and can be said after somebody is done with their daily duties. Literally, the sentence Ich pack' schon meine Geige ein means "I'm packing my violin already!". So you can translate it as "My work is almost finished, I'm mostly through with it".
Searching on Google about the etymology of phrases can be helpful and can give you more explanations sometimes, but for the most part, it still is a mystery why most of these expressions include some unexplainable inclusion for "violins". By now, I can only say "I'm packing my violin" and hope that you enjoyed reading my content.