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April 2000

Bye Line

The end of the road-the last of this column

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, as must this column which has run in Munich Found for the past nine years. Not to worry, something equally linguistic will take its place, but for now, we’ve collected some idioms appropriate for the occasion.

If someone tells you “viele Hände machen der Arbeit schnell ein Ende” (many hands make a quick end to the work), it means when everyone helps the work gets done faster. Keep in mind that it might be a hint for you to pitch in and lend a hand.

A person who seems to have far too many chores to do, like when moving from one house to another, might describe their predicament with the phrase “eine Schraube ohne Ende” (a screw without an end). This is an illustrative way of saying they see no possible end to the situation. Likewise, the idiom “kein Ende finden” (to find no end) is used to describe something that would seem never to end, such as when a group of Bavarians sit around a Stammtisch (a Gasthaus table reserved for regular guests) on a Sunday afternoon to talk about football or politics.

Borrowing from author James Fennimore Cooper’s well-known novel, the humorous saying “der Letzte der Mohikaner” (the last of the Mohicans) is used to describe the last remaining member of a group of people who has not yet moved on to other places or endeavors.

When you’ve played your last card in pursuit of a goal — die letzte Karte ausspielen, in German — the odds are you’re looking at a win or lose situation, depending on how well you placed that card. But you probably always come up empty if your significant other continually has the last word on something — das letzte Wort haben.

If you’ve got neighbors who are too noisy or like to play the electric guitar at all hours of the day, the handy phrase “mit etwas Schluss machen” (to end something) means to stop something — as in, “Mach jetzt Schluss mit dem Krach,” or, quite simply, quit your racket!

The expression “mit jemandem Schluss machen” (to make an end with someone). When said, this means a person has ended a relationship or friendship. And the similar, yet more strongly worded, comment “mit jemandem fertig sein” (to be finished with someone) means you don’t want to have anything more to do with someone. The saying “das letzte Wort ist noch nicht gesprochen” (the last word has not yet been spoken), on the other hand, means a final decision about someone or something has still not been reached.

When one’s biggest difficulties still lie ahead, this can be described as “das dicke Ende kommt noch” (the fat end is yet to come).

But as we head for the finish line with this column, “das dicke Ende” is now behind us and some closing remarks are in order. Germans, although not known for their humor, have a saying that is well worth remembering at times like these: “alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.” It means everything has an end, except a sausage, which has two — that is, until you take the first bite.

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