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I am looking for a faithful translation of the (common in Australia) saying:

"If you throw enough shit against a wall, some of it has gotta stick."

It is in no way offensive, and means that if you try to attack a problem long enough and with enough varied methods, then eventually you must make some progress. A translation of this phrase would also need to have each of these properties to be faithful.

I find myself reaching for something similar at times when discussing my work. Is there an appropriate analogous saying in German, and if not, is there something close?

Please note there is a meta discussion relevant to this question here.

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Interessanterweise gibt es im Deutschen einen (vom Wortlaut) ähnlichen Spruch, der aber eine völlig andere Bedeutung hat: "Wenn man jemanden nur oft genug mit Dreck bewirft, wird schon etwas hängen bleiben." –  swegi May 28 '11 at 20:17
    
I think the concept is too un-german to have an associated saying. Germans presume that everything has to be carefully planned and executed to succeed. –  starblue Jun 1 '11 at 12:04
    
@starblue Careful. That's not true in my experience. –  Glen Wheeler Jun 1 '11 at 12:23
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I may be exaggerating a bit. –  starblue Jun 1 '11 at 12:33
    
Originally this is a Latin saying. Does anybody know it? I can't remember. –  rogermue Oct 2 at 18:54

7 Answers 7

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I too can't think of an existing idiom in German that is faithful enough.

I would consider using a plain translation like

Wenn man genug ausprobiert, findet man irgendwann etwas, das funktioniert.

or

Wenn man genug rumprobiert, muß was irgendwann klappen.

it loses the down-to-earth charm and the slight vulgarity of the Australian version, but I can't think of a way to properly transport that. Translating it literally ("Wenn man genug Scheiße an die Wand wirft..."), not being a known idiom, would be overly vulgar.

On second thought, a direct translation doesn't look that terrible IMO. I would just remove the "shit". It would be a tad too vulgar for most audiences. So something like this:

Wenn man genug Dreck an die Wand wirft, bleibt irgendwann was davon kleben.

isn't that bad!

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There are lots of great suggestions here, but I've decided to go with the literal one here. I've tried it out today and it seemed to have the desired effect :).# –  Glen Wheeler May 30 '11 at 16:15

Etwas bleibt immer hängen, see [here][1]. Actually it is more abstract and a nearly lteral translation of the Latin

Aliquid semper haeret

One frequent context is, that bad rumours concerning someone will continue to harm the image, even if an official disclaimer follows up.

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Two idioms that aren't exactly the same, but should be mentioned:

Probieren geht über Studieren.

and

Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg.

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I don’t know of an idiomatic way of expressing this. If you want something concise which still captures the meaning, how about

Probier einfach solange Sachen aus, bis etwas klappt.

Literally, „Try out [different] things until something works“. I’ve heard mathematics described in this way on several occasions. Another phrase often used in this context is „wildes Herumprobieren“.

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+1 for "Wildes Herumprobieren" –  fifaltra Dec 29 '13 at 23:57

When translating, I think one is allowed to come up with one's own idioms, if they just sound good. My proposal:

Viel Unsinn hat auch seinen Sinn.

(Note that this is not an actual idiom in German.)

I just noticed that in some way it might be similar to the actual German idiom

Ein blindes Huhn findet auch mal ein Korn.

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Letzteres sagt aber aus, dass man trotz seiner Bemühungen etwas erreicht hat und nicht deswegen wie im Original. –  swegi May 29 '11 at 7:51
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Heißt das nicht „… trinkt auch mal’n Korn“? –  Konrad Rudolph May 29 '11 at 12:32

The closest saying I can think of is "Viel hilft viel". It roughly means "Doing (or using) a lot helps a lot."

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"Viel hilft viel" hört sich für mich mehr nach "Wo rohe Kräfte sinnlos walten, geht die Arbeit munter voran" an. –  swegi May 28 '11 at 20:19
    
"Viel hilft viel" kenne ich nur ironisch, dass es eben nicht hilft. –  user unknown Jun 9 '11 at 0:10

Mir fällt nichts ein, das hundertprozentig passt; aber vielleicht entspricht dieses Sprichwort der wesentlichen Aussage:

Steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein.

Sinngemäß:

  • Ausdauer führt zum Erfolg
  • Beharrlichkeit führt zum Ziel
  • Beständigkeit zahlt sich aus
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4  
Deine Beispiele sind alle zielgerichtet. Ich finde das Orginal hat etwas streuendes wie mit Schrottkugeln schießen, was noch fehlt. –  bernd_k May 28 '11 at 20:47
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"Steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein" zielt ja eher auf Wiederholungen ab als auf verschiedene Methoden. –  swegi May 28 '11 at 21:03
    
@swegi na ja, "shit" ist ja auch nur ein größerer, etwas dickflüssigerer Tropfen. ;) –  splattne May 29 '11 at 13:35

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