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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Sowieso

Today’s word of the day probably won’t help you navigate Aldi aisles or bureaucratic business. But this common adverb just may be useful in relaying those experiences and others with a rather “in spite of ‘X’” emphasis auf Deutsch.

German word of the day: Sowieso
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

“Sowieso.”

It literally means “so how so” or “so as so,” but can be translated to “anyway,” “anyhow,” and “in any case.”

Sometimes, it is more descriptively translated to “in one way or another.” “Sowieso” is a practical word and is often sprinkled throughout conversations, whether on German television or among teenagers on the U-Bahn.

But it was neither eavesdropping on my daily commute nor watching a German series that inspired choosing today’s word. It was a song. 2017’s “Sowieso” by Mark Forster is both the perfect description of this common word and its potential positive uses.

Forster sings:

“…Egal was kommt, es wird gut, sowieso
Immer geht 'ne neue Tür auf, irgendwo
Auch wenn's grad nicht so läuft, wie gewohnt
Egal, es wird gut, sowieso…”

Which, essentially, translates to

“…no matter what, it will be fine, anyway
A new door always opens somewhere
Even if things aren't going the way they're supposed to
Anyway, it's going to be fine anyway…”

In the “Sowieso” music video, actor Milan Peschel’s character’s bad day begins at sunrise. When he reaches for his towel, it’s on the floor.

He gets jam on his shirt at breakfast. At work, both his email inbox and the coffee carafe are empty. Yet, in one way or another, a simple success at the end of the day makes everything better.

“Sowieso” has other uses, too. “Das sowieso” can be a response to mean “of course!” or “that goes without saying.” “Sowieso” is often paired as “sowieso schon” to mean “already” or “as it is.”

“Sowieso” can replace a family name for someone when, well, you forget it or, for some reason, are unfamiliar with him or her. “Herr/Frau Sowieso” is similar to the English “Mr./Mrs. So-In-So.”

With its many uses, “sowieso” is certainly a word to learn.

Examples:

Das Konzert ist ausverkauft, aber ich konnte sowieso nicht gehen.

The concert is sold out, but I couldn't go anyways.

Ich werde bleiben. Ich habe den letzten Bus sowieso verpasst.

I'll stay here. I missed the last bus anyways.

 

 

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German phrase of the day: Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln

Anyone who has ever had to come up with a great idea on the fly can probably relate to this German phrase.

German phrase of the day: Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln

Why do I need to know ‘etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln’? 

Because this versatile phrase can come in handy in a range of situations, from having pulled off a great presentation at short notice to coming up with a spontaneous solution to a problem. 

What does it mean?

Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln is similar to the English phrase “to pull something out of a hat” or “to have something up your sleeve”. Literally, the German phrase means to shake something out of your sleeve, but in a figurative sense it describes coming up with a bright idea or pulling something off without planning or effort. 

Generally, shaking something out of your sleeve is what’s required when you’re faced with a tricky situation and you need to quickly think up a solution. It might be that you have to stand in for a colleague in an important meeting at short notice, or rustle up a meal from the scraps in your cupboard after forgetting that supermarkets are closed on Sunday. 

READ ALSO: German phrase of the day: Ich glaub’ mein Schwein pfeift

In a similar sleeve-related vein, the English phrase “off the cuff” shares the same sense of executing a difficult task spontaneously. 

So, why are sleeves so important for getting out of a sticky situation? Well, there are a few theories about that.

The first relates to a cheat in card games: if you’re dealt a bad hand, you can always improve your chances by pulling out a few better cards that may have found their way into your sleeve earlier on. 

Another theory dates back to the times when people would wear long robes or other garments with wide sleeves. This would allow people not only to warm their hands, but also to store small objects they may need up their sleeves, to be “shaken out” when the time was right. 

Use it like this: 

Was kann er jeztz aus dem Ärmel shütteln? 

What has he got up his sleeve now? 

Wenn Marina denkt, den Abschluss aus dem Ärmel schütteln zu können, dann hat sie sich aber gründlich vertan.

If Marina thinks she can just pull the degree out of her sleeve, then she is very much mistaken.

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