4

Recently, a popular post at Seasoned Advice discussed the difference between (decapitated and skinned) rabbits and cats, following the OP's suspicion of a fraud in a shipment of rabbit meat.

@Stephie posted an answer that mentioned an old German saying that roughly translates to English as "head off, tail off - bunny".

What is the German original?

If available, I would also like to know more about the origin and usage of this saying.

4
  • 1
    I've never heard about the saying, but apparently there is a song named "Kopf ab, Schwanz ab, Has!" by the German punk band WIZO. Its lyrics made me giggle.^^
    – Chris
    Jun 1, 2015 at 16:13
  • 1
    Apparently, it is Kopf ab, Schwanz ab – Has, a song by WIZO. I only learned about it by searching for the retranslation; if it really is an old saying, it isn't known everywhere, at least. (Edit: It appears I am a bit slow. :) Leaving the comment as further evidence for it being not too well-known.)
    – chirlu
    Jun 1, 2015 at 16:16
  • 1
    For some reason I keep thinking about the Blackadder quote ‘I have a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel!’ Only mildly related, though.
    – Jan
    Jun 1, 2015 at 16:30
  • 3
    Could be regional, known in Swabia, though.
    – Stephie
    Jun 1, 2015 at 19:48

2 Answers 2

9

For lack of better sources, I claim anecdotal evidence: My mother heard

"Kopf weg Schwanz weg: Has!"

when she was a child in the 1950s. It appears to be way older than this (I suppose I could check with some elder relatives, if necessary.).

The origin is undoubtedly the fact that all meat was a rare food and valuable source of protein in rural/poorer groups and times of famine or at least malnutrition were common in Europe for centuries. The superficial similarities between a roast cat and a roast rabbit1 together with a wider definition of meat fit for human consumption (beaver anyone?) brought cats on the table, too.

And of course there is the term "Dachhase" for cat - according to Wikipedia dating back to the siege of Vienna 1683 - also indicating culinary uses of domesticated cats.

In newer sources this is often refered to as a joke:

  • There is a Swabian humorous story of the poor family who served the neighbour's cat at a wedding, complete with a boy spilling the beans afterwards with said quote. (Link here in Swabian dialect, see last paragraph.)
  • The Movie "Der Etappenhase" (1937) has this substiution as main motiv.

1 note: both rabbit and hare was and is often called "Hase", the terms "Feldhase" = hare and "Stallhase" = domesticated rabbit are still used although not zoologigally correct.

0
-1

Kopf ab, Schwanz ab: Has' ist's!

1
  • 1
    Welcome to German.SE. Do you have any more to say than just the possible original translation? Like where it comes from. Maybe a source. And maybe formatted as normal text - or in case you add context than as quoted text? (need help on that?) Jul 8, 2020 at 13:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.