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I was hearing the song Augen unter Null by Eisbrecher:

Augen unter null –
Sehen das Ufer nicht,
Einsam abgetaucht
Und kein Land in Sicht.

I think Augen unter Null is a kind of idiomatic expression. Can you explain the meaning of it?

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Augen unter Null as a whole isn't an idiomatic expression. But unter Null is. It means "lower than 0 m above ground/sea level" which is equivalent to "below ground/sea level" (here: sea level).

All in all it means here:

eyes which are below sea level

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  • Thank you, but does "eyes which are below sea level" makes sence here? – optim1st Apr 13 '14 at 17:26
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    @optim1st At least the "abgetaucht" supports this interpretation. But if you suggest that there are better metaphors, I'm with you. – Landei Apr 13 '14 at 17:55
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    @optim1st Yes. The whole lyrics are about the world below sea level. The eyes convey the impression, that it's about some individual experiencing this. – Toscho Apr 13 '14 at 19:36
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    Without any context, "unter null" usually refers to freezing temperatures. They are below zero on the Celsuis scale. (I know this isn't what is meant here, but this is the more usual interpretation of that phrase.) – elena Apr 14 '14 at 7:10
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Sounds like a submarine reference, i.e. below sea-level.

Could be a lyrical euphemism for tearing up.

Hopelessness is implied by 'seeing no shore'.

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  • I like hopelesness explanation. – optim1st Apr 13 '14 at 17:24
  • +1. The rest of the text also seems to be talking about submarines. – PMF Apr 13 '14 at 17:53
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    @PMF: Yes, but only in the manner of an analogy. songtexte.com/songtext/eisbrecher/… "Wellen der Verzweiflung Brechen über Dir In der kalten Strömung Treibst Du weg von mir" ... – Christian Benesch Apr 14 '14 at 7:25
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This is not an idiomatic expression. "null" refers here to the sea level, which is (not very frequently) referred as "Normal-Null" in German.

Often "unter null" means temperatures under 0°C, but this wouldn't make sense here.

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  • If it is connected to the temperature can we translate it as "frozen look"? – optim1st Apr 13 '14 at 17:22
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    @optim1st I would say this would be a little bit far-fetched, as everything else revolves around the "sea" topic. You can say "kalter Blick", "kalte Augen" etc directly, "Augen unter null" would be a very encrypted version to express this thought. – Landei Apr 13 '14 at 18:01
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I would say "Augen unter Null" taken as a single expression is nonsense. Here in this verse it is a poetic picture that gets its sense only from the other lines. If you are diving you don't see the land, a cheap truism. But you can't use the expression in any other context as it is nonsensical.

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  • I think it makes perfect sense. It's a song so it is left to the listener to interpret for himself. That being said it's Eisbrecher. Many of their songs have references to cold and ice and the sea. However the lonely hopeless feeling of being out to sea is similar to that of a relationship that is under duress. – John Jones Nov 5 '17 at 14:56

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