German sayings

17:23 Apr 2, 2000
German to English translations [PRO]
German term or phrase: German sayings
Die Hose ist näher als das Hemd [I believe that this refers to people spending money first for themselves].
Der Fisch stinkt zuerst am Kopf [I believe that an example would be, that it all starts with the boss of the company].

Look forward to your suggestions and hopefully bookmarks for those kinds of rare translations.
Kerstin Kramer

Summary of answers provided
naSee below.
Andrea Nemeth-Newhauser
naSee below
Fiona Busfield
nasee below
Dierk Seeburg



12 mins
see below

Your explanations are on target. Try the URL below.

Dierk Seeburg
Local time: 03:18
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in pair: 404
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27 mins
See below

I've not heard these sayings exactly as you've put them there but I have heard the following:

"das Hemd ist mir naeher als der Rock" meaning "Charity begins at home"


"der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her" meaning "The problems are at the top"

Incidentally, the web site for AA Translations has recently been rehashed to include a whole section on proverbs of this kind in 4 different languages. See the URL below and follow the links.

Hope this helps,



Fiona Busfield
United Kingdom
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 40
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4 days
See below.

Your fish proverb is well known in many European languages. Here a URL for an article on Romanian proverbs, but I know it in Hungarian as well:

The FISH always stinks from the head downwards.
Pestele de la cap se-mpute.
Var. Fish begins to stink at the head.

If you search for fish, stinks, head in Google, you can see many variants of this particular saying in English. Even in German it has several variations (do the same search with Fisch, stinkt, Kopf to see), whereas in Hungarian there is only one set form of the proverb. Unfortunately I don't know the origin of the saying.

I found an interesting version of the Hose/Hemd proverb in the same Romanian collection:

Near is my SHIRT, but nearer is my skin.
Mai aproape-i pielea decât cãmasa.
Sim. Near is my doublet (kirtle, petticoat), but nearer is my smock.
Cf. Near is my COAT, but nearer is my shirt.

This lead me to search for the English words in Google, and voila, it turns out to be of Latin origin:

Das Hemd ist mir näher als der Rock. Plautus, Trinummus
engl Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin.
frz La chair est plus proche que la chemise.

Unfortunately this last URL is no longer active; I found it as a cached page in Google (and how useful they are!)

Andrea Nemeth-Newhauser
Local time: 03:18
Native speaker of: Native in HungarianHungarian
PRO pts in pair: 53
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