In English, we sometimes say “I’m flossing the cat”. It’s slang and it is supposed to convey that you are busy while you actually aren’t. For example:

I would love to watch Twilight with you but I’m flossing the cat.

I know that slang expressions can’t be translated directly so instead I would love to know a cool way to express this expression in German.

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    I am not aware of any such idiom, have, however, heard creative excuses like "Ich würde gerne,... aber mein Hamster hat Husten, ...aber ich muss noch mit dem Goldfisch raus"
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 8:05
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    On second thought: I am not so sure what you are asking for: are you looking for an expression for "wasting time", or are you looking for a silly excuse - I'm not sure.
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 8:22
  • Shouldn't your explanation of "flossing the cat" rather be: "It is supposed to convey that you are not willing to spend time on the proposed activity but do not reveil your true reason and instead ironically offer an obviously nonsensical excuse"? - That's at least what the suggested "Ich muss noch mit dem Goldfisch raus" would carry as a message. (Note b.t.w. that in Asterix: Der Seher people in the village start walking their hens in the woods.) Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 18:03
  • A different version may help explain the meaning of the expression. An older English language expression for this was "I'd love to go out with you but I have to wash my hair." It was a way to tell a person that their company was not desired without saying so directly.
    – Al Maki
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 18:12

2 Answers 2


What you can find in the Internet is following expression:

einen Esel kämmen

It can be used in the sense to do boring useless work.

Wieso kannst Du nicht mitkommen? Was für Esel hast Du denn noch zu kämmen?

Google books

  • Vielleicht liegts an der App, aber ich find unter dem Link nix mit Esel?
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 10:33
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    Nett, aber nie gehört. ;) Werd' ich mir merken
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 11:02
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    I have never heard this. I suppose it is from some book collecting phrases and idioms. But who knows where they took this from. Possibly appearing in only one single, say, annecdote of an 18th or 19th century writer such as J. P. Hebbel. Not in popular use. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 18:06
  • @Christian Geiselmann: I use this expression from time to time and searched therefore for some source in the internet. Probably one may find more than this. Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 7:46

Ich muss noch die Teppichfransen kämmen.

While in the past an "orderly" carpet fringe may have been a sign of a very diligent housewife, most people today would see this as a both tedious and superfluous task that may also indicate a hint of OCD (if taken seriously instead of a tongue-in-cheek joke).

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    I have actually neither ever heard of this nor found it on Google. Do you use this term regularly? Are you sure this is not just a regional thing?
    – RoyPJ
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 8:17
  • @RoyPJ heard and used it. Can't exclude regionalism, though.
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 8:18
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    @RoyPJ I confirm, this expression is used regularly and matches the english expression quite good.
    – IQV
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 8:23
  • Okay, thank you both. New phrase I learned today :)
    – RoyPJ
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 8:56
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    Auch nett, aber auch noch nie gehört ;)
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 11:03

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