You Can't Put Lipstick on a Pig...Or Can You?

It was around this time last year that I came down with a fairly severe case of what is known in Germany as Frühjahresmudigkeit. While I would like to equate the lapse in time since my last instalment here at Harlem Hausfrau to this dreaded ailment, I must be honest to both myself and the wonderfully patient readers of this blog that it has in fact been a case of “meinen innerern Schweinehund (“my internal pig(schwein) dog(hund)”) simply rearing its ugly head.


So you see, in making another immersive step towards my goal to sound more like a local, I have taken a keen interest in becoming acquainted with the characteristic idioms/sayings that appear to be a hardcore mainstay of the German language. Impressive with regards to their sheer number and downright curious with regards to their general origins, I have become a committed student to deciphering their secrets. "Meinen inneren Schweinhund" for example, simply translates to the fact that I just got lazy. That’s it – lazy. Now in breaking down this word, I clearly get the "pig part" of the equation but what the combined forces of a pig and a dog have to do in describing this condition kinda escapes me. In being fully committed to the belief that Germans are not genetically wired to be lazy, their development of such a creative idiom with which to describe that ONE time they opted into a Desperate Housewives TV marathon in lieu of inventing something to revolutionize the world is beyond me. With that said, each reference I have seen thus far to “meinen inneren Schweinhund” finds it linked to the word “überwinden” (overcome) which makes crystal clear that the Germans do not regard this as a state of being that one is technically allowed to be in. 

All Hail the Swine


"Meinen inneren Schweinhund" hardly stands as the singular reference to swine when stepping into the world of the German idiom. While we Americas have certainly given a bit of “pig preference” with our own colloquial sayings, the Germans have actually turned the pig into daily dialogue. Could it be the legendary amounts of swine consumed by the general population every year that lends itself to the pig being so near and dear to the German heart? Whatever the case maybe, we are talking about some fairly important messaging here that has been made all the more colorful thanks in no small part to the pig…  

"Ich glaub mein Schwein pfeift" -  I believe my pig is whistling. Refers to a person in a state of extreme surprise and/or disbelief, usually considered absurd in nature. You know like if you happened to be walking down the street, minding your own business and suddenly came across a pig blowing a whistle.  

"Die Sau rauslassen" - To let the pig out.  I can do a 1:1 comparison with this and American’s version of "going hog wild.” 

"Ich habe schwein gehabt" – I had a pig. Refers to someone experiencing a stroke of good luck. The Germans actually consider the pig to be a "Glücksbringer” (good luck charm). Our standard go-to, the four-leaf clover, is pretty boring in comparison.  Update: At approximately 12:45 on April 1rst, upon hearing from the friendly owner of our mechanic shop that the summer tires he had been storing for me over the winter had been accidentally tossed out and I was in turn to receive a brand new set at his expense, I proudly and happily said, "Ich habe schwein gehabt." While he was less than thrilled with the fact that he had to fork over new tires to me, I did see the twinkle of respect in his eyes that my oh-so-foreign-self had managed to appropriately throw out this oh-so-local-saying.

"Kein Schwein war da" (No pig was there) or "Kein Schwein hat mir geholfen" (Not a single pig helped me), “Ein armes Schwein" (a poor pig… as in “you poor thing”). Within the context of a storyline, I have learned it is ok to refer to person as a pig. I like this.

NOTE: Just to mix things up even further, the Germans have also enlisted the word “Schwein” to create exciting compound words such as “eine Schweinearbeit” - a strenuous job or “Schweinegeld verdienen” - to make a lot of money.  

"Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei" - Everything has an end, only the sausage has two. Despite my best efforts, I truly have no idea what this means. 

"Das ist mir Wurst" – It’s all sausage to me, as in "what do I care?" Sausage apparently can lend itself to much confusion. This might have something to do with the dizzying amounts of the stuff that can be found and consumed in this country. 

"Mein Deutsch ist unter aller Sau"- My German (as in language skills) is under all pig. I should have learned this a long time ago. Repeated over and over again - almost like my own personal mantra. God knows it could have turned some awkward moments of silence in my past into simply, awkward moments.

"Er glaubt, er bekommt eine Extrawurst"- He thinks he gets an extra sausage. This translates to someone who thinks they are better than everyone else. Makes perfect sense really, because in the grand scheme of things, what in world could be make one feel more superior than being handed a second sausage?