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ANSWERED on Tue 13 Mar 2007 - 8:35 pm UTC by Oliver Scriptor

Question: Please explain the German expression "Pferde zurück"

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 13 Mar 2007 07:05 UTCTue 13 Mar 2007 - 7:05 am UTC 

I recently learned the expression "Pferde zurück".

Don't ask me where but I understood that it was something that all Germans say, even though I had never heard it uttered even once during my two years in Germany.

Since learning to say "Pferde zurück" I have used it enthusiastically but several of my German-speaking friends in my Schuhplattlers class have since stopped speaking to me; one (an irate Hausfrau) slapped me across my kopf; and a lovely Mädchen tweaked my lederhosen.  

Please help me by explaining what's it all about ...

Could I have accidentally invoked an Evil Spirit?

Worried of Hove


David Sarokin 


 13 Mar 2007 14:32 UTCTue 13 Mar 2007 - 2:32 pm UTC 

I believe this is a reference to the infamous Perfidy of Zurich.

Back in 1217, Queen Grindenwald of Switzerland was betrothed to Baron Von Schwarzenegger of Bavaria(yes...*that* Schwarzenegger).  Their marriage was imminent, and would have solidified the bond between the two countries and probably led to their unification.

But the Queen decided she must follow her heart, and married the chocolatier of Zurich, giving rise not only to the "Pferde zurück", but to the enterprise that would eventually become Nestle's. 

Now...can I interest you in a bridge in Brooklyn...?





 13 Mar 2007 15:28 UTCTue 13 Mar 2007 - 3:28 pm UTC 

I believe it is a directional. A locational? No, a complex adpositional!




 13 Mar 2007 18:03 UTCTue 13 Mar 2007 - 6:03 pm UTC 

Dear Worried of Hove...

I am of German descent and spoke the language fluently in my younger years.I can still understand most of it. However, I have never heard of "Pferde zurück".

Mabe your lederhosen were on too tight when you heard this????

Just a thought.....

Frau Steph


Oliver Scriptor 


 13 Mar 2007 20:35 UTCTue 13 Mar 2007 - 8:35 pm UTC 

I think I can help you, Herr Probo!

"Pferde zurück" means literally, as you have certainly already figured out, "horses back" (NOT "horse's back", to avoid misinterpretation).

Luckily, I know that expression. However, it is rarely used, which is not surprising considering the fact that horses have gone out of fashion as common means of transport many decades ago.

The version of the expression you have learned, "Pferde zurück" is heavily shortened. Longer, and more obvious variants are "Alle Pferde zurück!" (All horses back) or "Alle Pferde zurück in den Stall!" (All horses back to the stable!). Now, what does that expression mean?

It simply means that something has been done overhastily, and now that the rashness of the activity has become obvious, it is quickly stopped. But why the horses? The answer is rather easy: Imagine a cavalry barracks 200 or so years ago. An alarm is raised, the soldiers hurry to the stables, get their horses and bring them out in the barrack yard to await orders. But then the alarm turns out to be false, that it had been raised overhastily. So the order is issued: "All horses back to the stables!"

Interstingly, there is a related expression with military origin in German, which is used to stop an activity that had been started overhastily: "Kommando zurück!" - "Orders cancelled!"

So the "Pferde zurück" saying is basically pretty obvious, isn't it? Please don't ask me for the source - I read it years ago when I had brought a book about sayings and their origins  from the library. I doubt that I will ever find it again...





 13 Mar 2007 21:08 UTCTue 13 Mar 2007 - 9:08 pm UTC 

Five stars from me; Scriptor explained it very accurately:
"It simply means that something has been done overhastily, and now that the rashness of the activity has become obvious, it is quickly stopped."
(I'd have thunk that the Prince of Wales's Husars would have been provided with a glossary of horse expressions used in NATO countries.)

The story about Schwarzenegger is delightful, but he was born in Austria.  Luckily, there don't seem to be any Bavarians around here, since they would probably take offense at the suggestion that he was one of them.

As to "a lovely Mädchen tweaked my lederhosen", I could explain what a "Hosenstall" is, but that would be getting below the belt line ...





 14 Mar 2007 04:38 UTCWed 14 Mar 2007 - 4:38 am UTC 

Excellent, Oliver, Very Many Thanks!

Although, the email that advised me of your Answer referred to "Pferde zurück" ...

Which confirmed the presence of some Evil Spirit.

My thanks to Dave for his fascinating fable; and to Steph and Myo for their contributions.

Now, I can face my next Schuhplattlers class with my confidence and self-belief restored.

All the Best





 14 Mar 2007 04:55 UTCWed 14 Mar 2007 - 4:55 am UTC 

My thanks also to Mark!

I've just checked my GMail account and noticed that "Pferde zurück" was received correctly there ...

It now makes me wonder if corrupted emails could have more sinister implications ...

Possibly an innocent message from George Bush to the Pentagon being transformed into the Code Word for launching an all-out Nuclear Attack ...




 14 Mar 2007 12:24 UTCWed 14 Mar 2007 - 12:24 pm UTC 

You have WoH, but it's worse than that, each and every message in English that has any foreign language diacritical marks is immediately routed to the FBI, and I mean IMMEDIATELY, before the intended recipient gets it.
Come to think of it, we should all take the trouble to add an umlaut or Arabic letter (or Hebrew, not to play on their prejudices) to each email sent and overload their files.
This idea has nothing to do with the fact that I saw Donnermarck's film about the Stasi yesterday.  It really is good, even if the female interest* lets herself get killed by a vehicle to save the hero.  Well, maybe another character is the real hero.

*But she is not redheaded or infatuatingly beautiful  - just very attractive to look at.

Ä é

Cheers, Myo




 14 Mar 2007 14:37 UTCWed 14 Mar 2007 - 2:37 pm UTC 

Hi Myo

Which Donnersmark are you referring to? There are SIX names listed here:






 14 Mar 2007 23:07 UTCWed 14 Mar 2007 - 11:07 pm UTC 

This one, Florian Maria Georg Christian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck,
the director of the Oscar-winning film:  "Das Leben der Anderen".

Before you ask, Maria is an accepted second given name for Catholic men in Germany (e.g., Rilke and others); his parent's weren't anticipating that he might become a tranny.  He stands 6'6" and a bit.

Hmm, I could swear that I had already posted this before.




 14 Mar 2007 23:26 UTCWed 14 Mar 2007 - 11:26 pm UTC 

Ha, I did post it, but it landed on the question "Should I stay or should I go".  This is quite strange, since I distinctly remember copying the name from Probo's link, and am quite certain that I posted it to this question immediately.   Hmmm?




 15 Mar 2007 04:22 UTCThu 15 Mar 2007 - 4:22 am UTC 

Donner und Blitzen, Myo!

There IS an Evil Spirit around and I am almost certain that He or She is lurking inside your computer.

Please check urgently but also remember to wear a high-grade Plague Mask - NOT one of those cheapo Chinese imports.

Viel dank!





 15 Mar 2007 13:02 UTCThu 15 Mar 2007 - 1:02 pm UTC 

Plague mask?  I consider all the bugs in my computer to be insects  - I know, they are called viruses and worms -  and like a beekeeper protect myself in a cloud of pipe smoke.  An occasional "Stoßgebet"* protects me from evil spirits.  (Admittedly, sometimes it sounds like I am cursing my computer, but I am really invoking higher spirits to exorcise the evil ones.)

*  "Deutsch-Englisch Übersetzungen für das Wort "Stoßgebet {n}Neutrum (das)":
little prayer
quick prayer
hurried prayer
ejaculatory prayer" 




 15 Mar 2007 16:33 UTCThu 15 Mar 2007 - 4:33 pm UTC 

In other words, "Pferde zurück" = "Hold your horses!"


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