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German Idioms of Decline

The German language has a colorful variety of idioms for describing when a situation is in decline or when things have gone badly.


If something is "in the bucket" in German, at least it's not as bad as "kicking the bucket" in English!


Wenn Thorsten nicht genommen wird,

If Thorsten is not accepted

ist seine Karriere im Eimer.

his career will be in the bucket [idiom, ruined].

Captions 18-19, Die Pfefferkörner - Eigentor

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The less polite version of the above is im Arsch, which for politeness' sake is perhaps best left untranslated.


Whereas something going badly is said to be "going downhill" in English, in German the expression relates to water rather than mountains.


Seit ich wieder angefangen hab', geht unsere Ehe den Bach runter.

Since I started again, our marriage has been going downstream [idiom, falling apart].

Caption 7, Mama arbeitet wieder - Kapitel 3: Papa ist weg

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If things get too bad, maybe it's high time you hightail it out of there!


...und macht sich aus dem Staub.

...and makes herself out of the dust [idiom, absconds].

Caption 45, Alpenseen - Kühle Schönheiten

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Further Learning
This extensive listing of German idioms is amusing for the fact that the English translations are all literal and intentionally humorous. Pick out a few whose real meaning is unclear to you and look online to discover what the expressions really express, then search for some examples used in real conversations on Yabla German.


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