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Does the following sentence have negative connotation? If it does, is there an equivalent without the negative connotation?

„Du bist ja frech wie Oskar!“

As I searched, none of the following sources talked about the connotation:

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I think the word "frech" in general (and similar to "cheeky") doesn't have much of a negative connotation to it any more. –  Stefano Palazzo Feb 28 '12 at 23:20
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I beg to differ. I am a native German, 31 years old, living in Berlin and to me "frech" is by default negative. There is a number of use cases where it is not but if you just call a person "frech" this is negative to me. –  Emanuel Feb 29 '12 at 0:10
    
@StefanoPalazzo: Think about how somebody would describe shady/impudent business practices (using frech as an alternative to unverschämt or dreist). I can't say I know what the current "default" connotation is, but I respectfully disagree with your generalization towards an almost exclusively positive meaning of frech. –  Jan Feb 29 '12 at 18:47
    
Well - there is the original meaning of 'frech' - it means what it does; I don't think there is a disagreement here. Why do we have to talk about a connotation? –  user unknown Mar 1 '12 at 8:24
    
Fair point, well made @Emanuel. I should have said "not offensive" - it is of course a negative word, but by no means an affront, generally speaking, even thought there are situations where it can be. –  Stefano Palazzo Mar 1 '12 at 23:14
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

We should point out that it may well be possible that "Oskar" originated from Jiddish ossik or Ossoker but this view seems not yet scientifically proven. Other explanations are that it may be a reference to Oscar Blumethal (Duden) a sharp tongued and humorous Berlin critic. From the closeness to other idioms that use Bolle it may also be that just a common name was randomly chosen.

"Frech" is definitely not only used with a negative connotation as it would be the case when a teacher talks about her pupils. It is also widely use to depict someone (ore something) as being a bit off the mainstream, lively, cool, or fresh.

Examples for this usage are:

Pippi Longstocking is considered as frech but then also in the most positive way.
"Eine freche Frisur": is a cool or fresh haircut.
"Ich mag Anna mit ihren frechen Antworten sehr"

Therefore by shifting "frech" to colloquial when saying "frech wie Oskar" we simultaneously shift the meaning towards a more positive connotation too. But this of course always depends on context.

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+1 for the point that "frech" shifted it's meaning quite a bit. I would add to the positive meanings of "frech" the aspect of "not shy, self confident". I'm thinking of this rule of thumb: If somebody could be considered cute in a way, "frech" has the possibility to have a positive meaning. –  0x6d64 Mar 1 '12 at 16:06
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I think this article from the GfdS gives a good hint in its last paragraph where it speaks of a tautology, since Oskar can be derived from the Jiddish expression ossok for frech, so an Ossoker is a person who is frech by default and calling him frech again makes it even stronger, which again is enough to give the expression a negative connotation.

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Without knowing Oscar, the strucutre of the sentence makes him "frech" by default ;) –  Martin Kremers Mar 7 '12 at 14:05
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