Simply the hammer: Popular German idioms involving tools | Meet the Germans | DW | 27.11.2019

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Meet the Germans

Simply the hammer: Popular German idioms involving tools

German idioms: What people mean when they make nails with heads, or shout about showing you where the hammer hangs. Don't expect a visit to their workshop!

"That is the hammer!" 

If you hear a German say "Das ist der Hammer!" they're talking about something that's brilliant or absolutely dreadful, expressing their amazement or frustration about something that's completely unusual, unexpected — perhaps reflecting the way the tool could just change everything with a single strike. 

There is a great variety of everyday German idioms  and phrases that use colorful images, from arms and legs to hats and sleeves, donkeys and monkeys, cherries, peas and potatoes — as well as terms from the world of tools and workshops, often dating back hundreds of years. 

In English, people may have an ax to grind — the German phrase with the same meaning uses entirely different imagery: Germans would more commonly have a chicken to pluck ("Hühnchen zu rupfen"). Other phrases are readily recognizable in both languages, as both German and English-language speakers can have a screw loose!

Click through the gallery above to learn more German expressions involving tools.

You'll find more from Meet the Germans on YouTube or at, and check out DW's cartoon series That's so German for a humorous take on German culture and stereotypes.

Fernandez cartoon: two children playing in the sand

Proper tools for a proper sand castle: A cartoon from the series 'That's so German'

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