German phrase of the day: Seinen Senf dazu geben

Learn this German phrase and you'll be sure to have a quick comeback next time someone interrupts you.

German phrase of the day
Photo: Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know Seinen Senf dazu geben?

Whenever someone jumps into a conversation to express their opinion without being asked, it’s good to respond politely – but with a healthy helping of sarcasm. This phrase will just do that! 

What does it mean?

The idiomatic expression ‘Seinen Senf dazu geben’ translates literally to ‘adding one’s mustard’, but it means a fair bit more than preparing the perfect sausage sandwich. 

In English, an equivalent phrase might be ‘to put in my two cents’ or ‘stick one’s oar in’, which essentially means sharing your opinion regardless of whether or not others want to hear it.

READ ALSO: German phrase of the day: Es geht um die Wurst

So next time your friend keeps interrupting you to expound their views on current affairs, you could ironically thank them for their two cents by quipping: ‘Danke, dass du deinen Senf dazu gibst’. This can be a good way of getting your point across without being too rude. 

Or when you want to offer your opinion on a potentially contentious topic, you could ask, ‘darf ich meinen Senf dazugeben?’, to make sure everyone’s okay with you expressing your thoughts. 

Where does this phrase come from?

As you can probably imagine, Germans have a particularly heartfelt connection with this particular spicy condiment. While tomato ketchup only really became popular in Germany in the 1950s, the country’s love affair with mustard dates back for centuries.

Back in the 17th century in medieval Europe, mustard was considered a rare and valuable ingredient that could be used to add a touch of spice to food. In fact, serving a meal with mustard was seen as a mark of sophistication. 

To stand out from the competition, greedy innkeepers began adding a little bit of mustard to every meal they served to make their food seem rather more gourmet than it actually was. There was only one problem: mustard doesn’t go well with every dish.

This trick quickly became a popular figure of speech in the German language, since the over-zealous addition of mustard was just as out of place as the unsolicited opinion of someone who just wants to stick their oar in. 

Use it like this:

Der neue Kollege muss zu allem seinen Senf dazugeben.

The new employee/colleague has to stick his oar in on everything.

Das Thema ist ausreichend diskutiert, da muss ich jetzt nicht auch noch meinen Senf dazugeben.

The topic has been discussed enough, I don’t have to add my two cents now.

In den Sozialen Netzwerken ist es noch einfacher, zu allem seinen Senf dazuzugeben.

It’s way easier to add your two cents to everything on social media.

Du musst nicht jedes Mal deinen Senf dazugeben, wenn wir diskutieren.

You don’t have to add your two cents every time we argue.

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German word of the day: Belastung

Sometimes things can be too hard to carry - but keep this German word to hand and you may be able to lighten the load.

German word of the day: Belastung

Why do I need to know Belastung?

Because this versatile little word can be found everywhere, from articles about contaminated waterways to discussions about teen mental health.

What does it mean?

Die Belastung (be.last.ung) can mean numerous things depending on its context, but generally it’s used to refer to a “load” or a “burden” of some kind. This can, of course, mean a physical load such as goods on a cargo train, but more often it’s a metaphorical one.

That’s why you may hear politicians in Germany talking about a “finanzielle Belastung” (financial burden) on citizens through inflation, or have a friend write to you about how their hectic new job is “eine Belastung” (a strain). 

Occasionally, Belastung can be a liability or debt, and other times it could be a heavy workload. 

If you hear it in an ecological context, it’s sadly most likely to be referring to pollution or exposure to a toxic substance.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Beharren

Where does it come from?

The word Belastung appears to come from the noun ‘Last’ in Old High German, which was used to describe something that weighed a person down – in other words, a load. In Middle High German, ‘Last’ could also be used as a measurement to mean an abundance or large quantity of something – again, similar to the English ‘load’.

‘Last’ has the same meaning to this day and can be found tucked away in several German words with similar connotations. For example, as well as burdening someone with a Belastung, you can also free them of their heavy load with an Entlastung. Incidentally, the latter is the word usually used to describe financial relief measures taken by the government. 

Use it like this: 

Ich will an der Universität studieren, aber momentan sind die finanzielle Belastungen zu groß.

I want to study at university, but at the moment the financial burdens are too great.

Mein rücksichtsloser Freund ist eine Belastung.

My reckless friend is liability.