Pig-dogs, Pony Farms, and Monkey Theaters – Expressions in German

German Animal Expressions

Pig-dogs, Pony Farms, and Monkey Theaters – Expressions in German

When you get to know a language well enough you discover that no matter how boring your teachers may have made them out to be or how simply rediculous à la Eddy Izzard’s “Le singe est sur la branche” they are often quite colourful. Here are some great German expressions to learn with animals that generally have nothing to do with them.


  • der innere Schweinehund — one’s weaker self. That inner laziness that comes up with excuses on why you don’t need to go for a run, or do your German homework


We use the verbs überwinden (overcome / vanquish) and besiegen (conquer) with the inneren Schweinehund. “Du muss den inneren Schweinehund überwinden.” or “Sie hat Schwierigkeiten, ihren inneren Schweinehund zu besiegen, um mehr Sport zu treiben.

Important to remember is that your innere Schweinehund, like it sounds, is not good.


  • Mit Dir kann man Pferde stehlen – You’re a good sport / you’re game for anything

pferde stehlen

This is one of those expressions that might have you scratching your head the first time you hear it “steal horses?!” Was zum Teufel soll das denn?! The expression is used for friends that you really trust – there would be no prisoner’s dilemma (das Gefangenen-Dilemma) with them, because they wouldn’t turn you in. This is the friend with whom you have no problem hitting Hamburg’s Reeperbahn. What happens in Hamburg, stays in Hamburg. “Jochen ist mein bester Freund. Mit ihm kann man Pferde stehlen.

The expression dates back to the time when stealing horses was one of the hardest punished crimes.


  • das Leben ist kein Ponyhof – Life’s not a bed of roses / Life wasn’t meant to be easy


This is an expression that all parents will love, especially if your child wants a pony. The expression is also the title of an online comic strip by Sarah Burrini. Here’s an example of how you may want to use it if your child is complaining about doing their homework. “Aber Mami nein! Die Hausaufgaben sind so schwierig. Ich will sie nicht machen.” – “Oh Schatz, das Leben ist kein Ponyhof. Jetzt mach sie endlich, danach darfst du fernsehen.


  • Ein Affentheater machen – to make something into a farce / completely over exaggerate something


This is again one of those classic expressions parents and probably teachers will love to have on hand. When you tell your kids, “Also, jetzt ist Schlafenszeit.” and they start screaming (schreien) and having a temper-tantrum (der Tobsuchtanfall) you can easily say: “Nun ist aber Schluss mit diesem Affentheater!” (Let’s stop it with this charade!).

This expression dates back to the 19th century when circuses first started featuring monkeys dressed as people, acting almost human i.e. the opposite of a wild animal.


  • Wo sich Fuchs und Hase Gute Nacht sagen – in the middle of nowhere

fuchs und hase

This is a much more child appropriate version of “am Arsch der Welt” or literally on the ass of the world. With a little imagination you can probably picture a world where foxes and hares get along and wish each other good night. This is a great expression to use about a place you’ve been, or where you may live. z.B. “Das Dorf, in dem ich aufgewachsen bin, liegt von der Zivilisation so weit weg, da sagen sich Fuchs und Hase “Gute Nacht!” 

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