German phrase of the day: Das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen

German phrase of the day: Das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen
A plane flew over a perfectly blue sky in Cologne on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd
Many parts of Germany have been blessed with seemingly unending clear skies over the last few weeks. This useful German phrase wards you off getting too comfortable with this kind of weather.

Das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen means ‘to promise the blue of the sky’, or in other words to sell an unreachable dream. We have a number of variations on this sentiment in English, if you are setting unrealistic expectations you may be said to be promising heaven and earth, or even the moon and the stars.

Though the idioms in English are generally celestial, the sky is clearly the limit in Germany. Ever the realists, the Germans believe it is even too far-fetched to try to guarantee good weather. 

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The idiom comes from the idea that it is never a good choice to try and assure someone of factors that are out of your control. As much as you may be confident that the skies will remain cloudless for the foreseeable future, sometimes even top weather forecasters can’t predict a storm. 

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A company may be said to be promising blue skies if they make fanciful claims about a product or service, usually without a lot of evidence. If a company suggests they can change your life, in return for vast amounts of money of course, you will probably be left disappointed. 

This idiom can also be applied to an individual who rarely delivers on their promises. It can become quite tiresome to be let down over and over again by a friend who talks a good game, but rarely follows through. Whether you constantly arrive late, forget key events, or can’t be trusted with important tasks, despite your best assurances, you may leave your German friends disappointed. 

Examples: 

Geschäftsleute versprechen das Blaue vom Himmel wenn sie ihre Produkte anpreisen.

Business people will promise the moon and the stars when advertising their products. 

Politiker versprechen einem das Blaue vom Himmel, auch eine Politik, die in die sichere Katastrophe führt.

Politicians will promise almost anything, even policies that are bound to end in disaster.


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