Why do I need to know nicht die Bohne?
Because everyone needs another German food-related idiom to add to their vocabulary, and it can also be used in a few different ways.
What does it mean?
Nicht die Bohne (pronounced like this) literally translates to ‘not the bean’ but it has nothing to do with what you’re eating. This phrase actually means something like: ‘not at all’ or ‘not a jot’ and is used to convey when you really don’t care about something.
The origins of this phrase are said to come from way back in the Middle Ages when the humble bean was one of the most important food staples. But you need a lot of beans to make a proper dish; no-one is interested in a single bean.
According to researchers, the saying has been documented in Minnesang, a tradition of lyric and song writing in Germany and Austria in the Middle High German period, by performers like Walther von der Vogelweide (1170-1230) and Gottfried von Strassburg (1170-1215).
In von Strassburg’s work Tristan, an adaptation of the classical saga of Tristan and Isolde, a passage about the lovers says: “Sie hätten um ein besser Leben, nicht eine Bohne hergegeben” or ‘they would not have given a bean for a better life’.
The reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) is also said to have used Bohne as a synonym for worthlessness.
Use it like this:
Das interessiert mich nicht die Bohne.
I couldn’t care less (about that).
Es interessiert mich nicht die Bohne, warum du gestern nicht im Kino warst. Du hattest versprochen zu kommen!
I don’t give a damn why you didn’t go to the cinema yesterday. You promised to come!
Sie konnte nicht die Bohne singen.
She couldn’t sing at all.