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Shake that sleeve: Clothing items in German idioms

Dagmar Breitenbach
September 4, 2019

Items of clothing feature in many popular German idioms. Find out more about exploding shirt collars and what Germans mean when they say "it's coat or pants to me."

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Image: picture-alliance/blickwinkel/McPhoto

Many German idioms involving clothing center on headware like hats and caps, and quite a few use shoe imagery. Inbetween, there are proverbs that make ample use of shirt collars and sleeves, vests and gloves.

Some are similar in English, others differ. Germans just don't wear their "birthday suit" when they are naked, nor do they "put on their thinking cap," wear their "heart on their sleeve" or are "dressed to kill."

In the English language, particularly anxious people who can't sit still have "ants in their pants," while Germans have "bumblebees up their backside."

You'll find more from Meet the Germans on YouTube or at dw.com/MeettheGermans.