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I have recently learnt this good idiom but would like to understand it better.

The dictionaries say mostly;

in einem Rutsch = in one go

I have thought in einem Rutsch as the synonym of auf einmal until now. But it is not sufficient to think like that.

For example, there are three tasks, which should be completed.

When I say;

ich möchte die Aufgaben in einem Rutsch erledigen.

does it mean more,

I will (work on) complete all of the tasks concurrently

or

I will complete them consecutively (in a row) without giving any break?

Addendum

A follow-up question: Which word should be used to give the sense of concurency, while the tasks are being completed?

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    For me, it is clearly b) consecutively in a row, without a break. – Christian Geiselmann May 18 '17 at 17:14
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    For me, the key point is "without a break". It could be concurrently or consecutively, that's not specified. – Uwe May 18 '17 at 17:49
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    Note in einem Rutsch typically denotes some sort of synergy between the tasks - like cleaning up the workshop only once after everything is done, or having all the tools at hand needed for all the tasks - In my opinion, there's no notion of serial or parallel execution in there. That's left unspecified. – tofro May 18 '17 at 17:50
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    follow-up concurrency: Ich möchte mehrere Aufgaben gleichzeitig erledigen. – hellcode May 18 '17 at 20:43
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    @AdInfinitum "gleichzeitig", "parallel", or "nebeneinander", but I would use "gleichzeitig" only for things that really happen at the same time (which is rare), and the others for interleaved actions (which is much more common). – Uwe May 18 '17 at 20:44
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In einem Rutsch

verbatim: in one slide

This means: in one go, i.e. you perform what ever you have to do, without doing something else while you perform your work. So the focus is on "without any interruption". You perform your job like it was one inseparable task.

The phrase in einem Rutsch says nothing about how you structure your work within this monolithic task. It just says: The job is one single inseparable task.

If you have to do more than one task, then you still can use in einem Rutsch, but it's not the best choice.

Where it comes from:

I din't find any source, so this is what I think where it comes from. Maybe someone has a better explanation.
Imagine a pile of coal, and you add more and more pieces of coal on top of that pile. Suddenly on the side of the pile a larger amount of coal starts sliding down together. This movement of many pieces together is called "ein Rutsch" in German. I think, that this is where this phrase comes from.

German synonyms (sometimes with subtile differences in the meaning) are:

  • auf einen Schlag - at one stoke
    used for short tasks or events that happen together
  • in einem Aufwasch - in one washing up
  • in einem Schritt - in one step
  • in einem Zug - in one move
    (in this context: Zug = move in a game like chess)
  • in einem Arbeitsgang - in one operation
  • in einem Durchlauf - in one pass
  • auf einmal - at once
  • ohne Unterbrechung - without interrupt

concurrent

"In einem Rutsch" can be interpreted as concurrent, but concurrency is not my first association when I hear "in einem Rutsch". If you explicitly want to express concurrency, than say one of these:

  • gleichzeitig
  • zugleich
  • simultan
  • zur selben Zeit
  • parallel

consecutively

My first association with "in einem Rutsch" is consecutively. But as said above, it also can be interpreted as concurrent. If you want to be clear about consecutively say:

  • hintereinander
  • nacheinander
  • Schlag auf Schlag
  • der Reihe nach
  • aufeinanderfolgend
  • A masterpiece answer... When it comes to where Rutsch stems from, I have always thought that it is something with the snow because on the New Year's Eve, everybody says guten Rutsch to eachother. – Ad Infinitum May 19 '17 at 10:40
  • For the New Year's wishes Rutsch is used in the maning of Reise see: german.stackexchange.com/questions/9476/… – Takkat May 19 '17 at 13:12
  • @Takkat When a close friend sits where I want to sit, in German, I can say "rutsch rüber" (very roughly translation -> slide yourself over there). Hmm. After your notice (rutsch stems from reise aka journey), it is more logical. Because journey means moving yourself from a place to another place :) – Ad Infinitum May 19 '17 at 13:26
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Your association with snow is completely right in my opinion. "Rutsch" is a gravitation-driven movement that, once it gets going, is hard to stop - you need some power or a sufficiently big obstacle for that. On stuff like ice, it can get really fast, too.

"In einem Rutsch" implies that it is easier (like letting yourself slide down an icy slope) to just swiftly handle all tasks together instead of wasting "power" (=time and energy) to stop between them. The preservation of speed also helps to overcome small obstacles more easily.

As we all know, Germans love efficiency ;), and the idiom is frequently used to encourage oneself to make a group of tasks look easier (wishful thinking, because there is no gravity to do most of the work for you) and/or keep the work flow up ("I'll just do it in einem Rutsch, so I probably save a lot of time / waste less energy on friction") or to justify not taking a break to others ("I could come to eat now, but it's more efficient to do my work in einem Rutsch, so please wait for a bit, honey").

  • I was wrong with the association with snow (I realized after Takkat's comment under the Hubert's answer). However, your answer taught me a very good mnemonic, which I will never forget "in einem Rutsch". Thanks. – Ad Infinitum May 19 '17 at 13:28
  • About efficiency: Right, Germans love efficiency, but we are not talking about a deutschländisch term, but a deutschsprachig. (The englisch word German and the German word deutsch can mean both, which is a common source of misconception). We in Austria are not really experts in efficiency. We love it more gemütlich (cozy/unhurried/comfortable), and German efficiency often makes us Austrians feel uncomforted. But still we speak German and we also use the term "in einem Rutsch" as often as the Germans. – Hubert Schölnast May 20 '17 at 7:43

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