Weathering the German language storm

Weathering the German language storm German Language Coach

As spring approaches, the shifting weather patterns offer a unique insight into the German language. Like in many other cultures, proverbs about the weather are a common thread in German discourse. While Germans may not engage in small talk as frequently as English speakers, mastering these proverbs is a testament to your command of the language and your understanding of German culture.

Germans refer to Kaiserwetter when there is blue sky and sunshine. Its origins can be found in Austria, where the emperor Franz Joseph’s birthday was mid-August when the weather was dominated by the sun and blue sky.

April, a month known for its erratic weather, transitions from warm spring days to rainy spells and even storms. Germans have a playful way of expressing their frustration with this unpredictable weather: ‘Der April macht was er will’ — meaning ‘April does as it pleases ‘. This proverb reflects the weather patterns and the German attitude of accepting and adapting to the whims of nature.

Jumping from the frying pan into the fire is an excellent idiom that can be applied in many situations. German has a weather idiom to describe this phenomenon: vom Regen in die Traufe. It is much wetter in the eaves (Traufe) than in the rain, describing a scenario where something gets worse.

The human character is often described using weather terminology. In English, a turncoat is someone who criticises someone rather opportunistically and aligns with the majority opinion. In German, we say seinen Mantel each dem Wind hängen — to set your coat according to wind direction. The opposite would be gegen den Strom schwimmen — to swim against the tide.

Germans trying to counter an argument, like in English, take the wind out of someone’s sails—jemandem den Wind aus den Segeln nehmen.

When considering something that has already been said or mentioned and has, therefore, lost its newsworthiness, Germans refer to Schnee von gestern—yesterday’s snow, which is no longer untouched.

So schnell wie der Blitz — as fast as lightning doesn’t need much explaining, unlike the saying it is raining cats and dogs, whose origin is somewhat opaque; the German equivalent, wie aus Eimern regnen — to rain out of buckets, has a more plausible origin.

Let’s hope the weather improves so we can enjoy spring and a warm summer. Still, it is best to avoid Affenhitze, a word introduced in the late 19th century to describe the high temperature at the monkey enclosure at Berlin Zoo.

Wenn die Affen steigen wird schönes Wetter – when the money climbs the weather improves. Assuming the monkey would climb back up the tree when the thunderstorm has passed.

Get in touch if you would like to bring your German to the next level by employing German idioms.

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