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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German Word of the Day: die Ausrede

If you want to get out of a date, or you haven’t done your homework – you might need one of these.

German Word of the Day: die Ausrede
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

This little German word can come in handy in a variety of situations.

Ausrede, Meaning “excuse” consists of the verb reden which means “to talk” or “to speak” and the prefix aus which translates as “out”, “off” or “from”.

So, a good way to remember the word is to think of it as a tool you use for talking yourself out of something. 

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that in German, the word Ausrede has a slightly negative connotation and can be used to hint that the reason given is fabricated.

So, if you want to tell your boss that you have a good reason for why you can’t come to work, it’s better to say you have eine Entschuldigung (also meaning excuse) instead.

Another thing to watch out for is trying to use the verb ausreden in the same way as the English “to excuse”. In German, the verb ausreden actually means to finish speaking, for example: ich lasse ihn ausreden means “I let him finish speaking”.

Examples:

Er hat nach einer Ausrede gesucht

He was looking for an excuse

Diesmal habe ich keine Ausrede
This time I have no excuse
 
Besser keine Ausrede als eine schlechte
Better to have no excuse than a bad one

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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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