I am looking for the equivalent of "that (or you) drives (or makes) me crazy". I learned it with wahnsinnig, but was recently given a more colorful, if somewhat suspicious alternate version:

Du gehst mir tierisch auf den Keks.

Apparently the tierisch is optional. Is this really used, what on earth does it mean, and is there even the slightest sexual connotation, in which case I would definitely not want to use it?

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    Not the slightest hint of sexual connotation. Besides that, Welcome to the german language SE :) – hiergiltdiestfu Nov 23 '15 at 22:30
  • "To drive s.o. crazy" can be translated as "jmd. in den Wahnsinn treiben", fast wörtlich. – user unknown Nov 24 '15 at 3:11
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    Ironically, "du machst mich (ganz) wahnsinnig/verrückt" (also "du bringst mich um den Verstand") can be used in sexual(ized) contexts. – Raphael Nov 24 '15 at 8:15
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    +1 𝑓𝑜𝑟 the question’s title. – dakab Nov 24 '15 at 9:11
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    It should be noted that Du gehst mir auf den Keks does not mean you drive me crazy, but you're getting on my nerves or you're pissing me off. – Thorsten Dittmar Nov 24 '15 at 14:28

Both the intensifier tierisch and the figurative though somewhat enigmatic phrase auf den Keks gehen are typical examples of Jugendsprache (teenage slang). But as they are at least several decades old, they are pretty much mainstream nowadays, though obviously quite informal. Neither has any sexual connotations whatsoever.

Tierisch literally means beastly and is quite natural as an intensifier built on a negative adjective/adverb, similar to English intensifiers such as terribly, awfully, frightfully, bloody, crazy, damned etc. Others in German include furchtbar, schrecklich, unheimlich, verdammt.

The origins of jemand auf den Keks gehen are totally obscure, but it is similar in structure to jemand auf die Nerven gehen, jemand auf den Geist gehen, jemand auf den Senkel gehen, jemand auf den Wecker gehen and in English get on someone's nerves. They all have exactly the same meaning and pretty much the same connotations. In German there are variants with sexual connotations, though not very strong ones: auf den Sack gehen, auf die Eier gehen, auf die Nüsse gehen. This corresponds to get on someone's wick in British English.

While there is obviously a lot of variation in what exactly it is that you are getting on when you are annoying someone, there has occasionally been some popular speculation on why a cookie of all things is among the options. Speculative explanations include:

  • it's chosen because of the absurdity
  • it's chosen because in a sense it's logical: stepping on a cookie destroys it and so annoys the owner
  • it's from an old word for Bowler hat
  • it's from a Yiddish word for roof
  • it's related to einen weichen Keks haben (be a fruitcake)
  • Keks was once slang for blotter paper with LSD.

Some of these explanations don't really make much sense given that the phrase only started appearing in print in the early-mid 1970s.

  • We may want to add somewhere that Keks has the meaning of head or mind in the above mentioned German slang expressions. – Takkat Nov 24 '15 at 9:07
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    @Takkat Does it? On which basis did you come to that conclusion? Any reference for that? – Em1 Nov 24 '15 at 12:45
  • @Em1: e.g. duden.de/rechtschreibung/Keks and more... – Takkat Nov 24 '15 at 13:07
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    @Takkat: Ich bezweifle nicht, dass es irgendwo benutzt wird. Wenn etwas im Duden steht, dann hat das schon seinen Grund. Mir war aber wichtig anzumerken, dass es nicht überall benutzt wird. Diese Information (regionale Beschränktheit, oder »landschaftlich« wie es gerne heißt), fehlt im Duden und sollte nachgetragen werden. – Hubert Schölnast Nov 25 '15 at 9:09

Yes this is really used.

Near Stuttgart this is a frequent colloquialism.

Tierisch is just an intensifier and as such optional, though usually at least some intensifier is included.
Interestingly I can't think of a different one off the top of my head, which may be because it is the most frequent identifier (at least from my personal impression).

In addition to that, Keks can be substituted by a number of different words sometimes similarly unrelated. The most "formally adequate" phrase would in my opinion be "Du gehst mir auf den Geist." or "auf die Nerven".

Be aware that all of these phrases are generally for the colloquial context and not suited for any kind of formal conversation.

Other substitutes for Keks may include sexually loaded terms, but the phrase, as far as I can tell, never includes any sexual connotations.

  • Same here in Berlin. One of the variants that you alluded to and that the OP will want to avoid is “auf den Sack”. – Carsten S Nov 24 '15 at 9:05

You can say "Das macht mich wahnsinnig!". If you want to say it to another person, you can use "Du machst mich wahnsinnig".

I don't know if this is, what you mean. If not, tell me.

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