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We have in Yiddish an expression for "what's the matter" that sounds like "was is der mehr?". Is this German or what? I can't make sense of it.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Admittedly I never heard this or any similar expression in German (not even unrelated to "matter").

What comes to mind however is the now unusual German "die Mär" (used in the meaning of tale, story, report, derived from Old Hig German mârî and also in its diminutive still used in "das Märchen").

By changing gender and thus article we could have said:

"Was ist die Mär?" - "What is the story?" or "What's up?"

Nobody uses this expression nowadays but considering it's ancient roots in the German language it may well have survived in Yiddish.

Even at Grimm's times the usage of "Mär" was rare but it was used by Heinrich Heine who wrote a poem to his friend Meyerbeer:

Beeren-Meyer, Meyer-Beer!
Welch ein Lärm, was ist die Mär?
Willst Du wirklich jetzt gebären
Und den Heiland uns bescheren,
Der verheißen, der versprochen?

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