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I found that the following expressions have the same meaning:

Das ist mir Wurst.

Das ist mir egal.

But I’m still not sure if they can be used in same situation and if they express the same exact meaning. I want to understand the nuance between the two expressions, and it would be also great to know the etymology of the first one.

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"Das ist mir wurscht/wurst" means the same as "Das ist mir egal". Neither are polite, although wurscht/wurst is a bit more colloquial.

An example:

A: Wollen wir heute abend zum Italiener oder zum Griechen?

B: Das ist mir egal. / Das ist mir wurscht/wurst. Hauptsache es gibt was zu Essen!

Duden and Redensarten-Index both list wurscht and wurst. Wiktionary says wurscht is used outside of northern Germany. I'm from southwest Germany and I only know wurscht, but I never thought of it as dialect, because I would never pronounce the sausage "Wurst" with "sch"!

Whereas Duden (1, 2) says "etymology unknown", Redensarten-index presents two possible etymologies:

Die Redensart "das ist mir wurscht", die wohl besagt: Es ist ganz egal, ebenso wie egal ist, was in die Wurst hineinkommt. Eine andere Deutung bezieht sich auf die zwei gleichen Enden der Wurst (Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei). Es ist also gleichgültig, an welchem Ende man sie anschneidet. Die Redensart stammt aus der Studentensprache Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts

The saying "das ist mir wurscht", which probably says: It does not matter, just as it does not matter with what a sausage is filled. Another interpretation refers to the two equal ends of the sausage (all has an end, only the sausage has two). It is therefore indifferent at which end they are cut first. The style of speech comes from the student language at the beginning of the 19th century.

Important note: Despite its origin from sausage (Wurst). The wurst in das ist mir wurst/wursch is written in small letters.

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  • Interesting. In all mty years in Bavaria, I only heard Wurst, never Wurscht. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Feb 8 '17 at 18:09
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    Born and raised in Bavaria, "Wurscht" is the only way me and my familiy pronounces it. I always find it awkward to hear when someone pronounces it "Wurst" ^^ – QBrute Feb 8 '17 at 19:26
  • What's the polite way to express "Das ist mir egal"? – BruceWayne Feb 9 '17 at 0:37
  • @BruceWayne, please ask this as an own question. – Iris Feb 9 '17 at 8:19
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    In my corner of Bavaria, it is both Wurscht (for the sausage) and wurscht (in the expression). So it was just natural for me to hear wurst further away from home. – Jan Feb 9 '17 at 14:28
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EDIT and copy of the answer of Torsten Link to the difference with his friendly permission (see comments)

Das ist mir egal is the official (though not very polite) way to say: I don't care.

Das ist mir wurst is a colloquial way to say the same. You would usually not use this phrase in any official conversation (e.g. with your boss).

An often found answer to the etymology of this expression is, that a sausage ("Wurst") has two endings, so it doesn't matter from which side you start to cut or eat.

There are some more explanations as the expression can be found BC. But this is the one you can find the most.

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    See Grimms c) for a reference for this and another etymology. – Takkat Feb 8 '17 at 10:17
  • +1 for etymology, but in fact it does not answer the question regarding "what's the difference" and if the two expressions can be used in the same situations... – Torsten Link Feb 8 '17 at 10:31
  • @TorstenLink Du hast recht. Ich finde Deine Erklärung des Unterschieds sehr gut und völlig zutreffend, deshalb wolte ich sie nicht einfach kopieren. Und ich halte Deine Antwort für die wichtigere, denn der korrekte Gebrauch ist doch die eigentliche Frage und vor allem wichtiger wie die Herkunft des Ausdrucks. Sollen wir die zwei Teile kombinieren? – IQV Feb 8 '17 at 10:41
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    Kopiere doch, dann haben wir alles in einer Antwort. Kannst ja dazu schreiben, wo es herkommt... – Torsten Link Feb 8 '17 at 10:57
  • @TorstenLink Beide Antworten zusammengefasst und auf deine Originalantwort verwiesen. – IQV Feb 8 '17 at 11:27
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Das ist mir egal is the official (though not very polite) way to say: I don't care.

Das ist mir wurst is a colloquial way to say the same. You would usually not use this phrase in any official conversation (e.g. with your boss).

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  • Ich würde sagen, das ist mir wurscht, nicht wurst. – Iris Feb 8 '17 at 9:59
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    Ja, aber das ist Dialekt, ich komme auch aus dem Süden Deutschlands, da ist das richtig. Ich kenne aber durchaus Personen aus z.B. Hamburg, die tatsächlich "Wurst" sagen... – Torsten Link Feb 8 '17 at 10:32
  • Finde ich spannend, das hatte ich nicht als Dialekt eingeordnet, da ich ansonsten niemals "Wurscht" zur "Wurst" sagen würde. – Iris Feb 8 '17 at 10:34
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    I'm not 100% sure the meanings are identical - "egal" means "this or that or nothing at all" to me. "Wurscht" is either this or that, but not nothing. – tofro Feb 8 '17 at 10:42
  • Die Wurst in "es ist mir wurst" wird kleingeschrieben! Beleg z.B. duden.de/rechtschreibung/wurst – Iris Feb 8 '17 at 14:23
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"Wurst" here does not refer to sausage, but probably comes from Old English "wiersa" and similarly old Dutch "wers" which means worse (also related is the word war) or not good. It probably originally had only a bad connotation as in "it does not interest me at all or I don't like it" The German word "wurst" can also be used personally: Dieser Mensch ist mir wurst! It is not capitulated and not a noun but an Adjective in this case! https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/wurst We have a similar sazing in Afrikaans: Vir botter (butter) of vir wors (sausage) = for better or worse, which has nothing to do with sausage, but is borrowed from English.

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  • That’s really interesting, particularly the similarity of better / butter / botter and wors / wurst / worse! Where can I find information about that? My (admittedly rather concise) etymological dictionary (the »Kluge«) and the »Grimm« both say the etymology of the saying »ist mir wurst« is unclear. Anyway, thumbs up! – Philipp Jun 1 '18 at 15:16
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    Also think of the German adjective "wurstig" or "wurschtig" which again is not at all a reference to saussages, rather means "careless", "untidy". Which fits very well into your line of "worse", "wiersa" (and probably also "weird"). This then would also shade new light on Hanswurst which is a word for a laughable person. Usually people hobby-etymologize a saussage into it, but a "miserable John" would make much more sense! – Christian Geiselmann Jun 1 '18 at 18:56
  • @Petrus Do you have a reference for wurst-worse etymology? This might improve your answer. – Arsak Jun 2 '18 at 8:22
  • @ChristianGeiselmann When I think of the traditional process of making sausages, I can clearly see where the relation to untidy or carelessly might come from... – Arsak Jun 2 '18 at 8:25
  • @Marzipanherz Yes, I am not saying the popular etymology is inconceivable. However, I find relating it to the "worse" root (of some common form of old German) much more convincing. - Or, of course, we ask where "Wurst" (saussage) comes from, and end up discovering that it has the same root - e.g. some "ugly mess" of ingredients... So far this is only an idea. Perhaps somebody takes the time and effort to look it up? – Christian Geiselmann Jun 3 '18 at 10:38

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