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I hear people say:

"Mein lieber Scholli, das war knapp!"

What does "Scholli" mean in this context? Is using this idiom in any way offensive or insulting?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

According to Duden Online

mein lieber Scholli!

is a colloquial expression of astonishment, admiration or relief.

It's derived from the French word "joli" which means "pretty/cute" or "nice".

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+1; didn't know the French origin (though it sounds logical), though I often hear the expression. – OregonGhost Jul 25 '11 at 16:03

Nice Question, you never think about those if you are just familiar with them. has another explanation:

"Die andere Theorie besagt, dass Scholli auf eine reale Person zurückgeht, nämlich auf Ferdinand Joly" According to Wikipedia he was a vagrant in Austria who lived a very own kind of lifestyle.

And to your Question, no it would be in no way offensive to use this. Maybe some people would find it funny to hear a foreigner say this (even for German people this is not a common expression, at least not for my age).

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