I'm giving a keynote in Potsdam in two weeks on reputation systems, and I'm looking for a German colloquial/slang phrase for "Them's fight'n words!" I'm using it to represent the idea that people can become offended by reputation systems to the point of verbal/written outbursts of anger.

Given the tone of my writings, I prefer slang expressions to formal ones.

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    I tried to look it up on the web and I think I get the idea but I am confused as to what fightin' is... is that a progressive aspect "is fighting" to you? Or is it an adjective like nice words/fighting words and the "is" is grammatically wrong and should be are. And then to whom does them refer... to the words (those/these) or to me, when I said the offensive thing (you) That would help me to brwose my brain for a close idiom... and even if I don't com eup with anything useful. I would still like to know these things :) thanks in advance
    – Emanuel
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 21:31
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    The slang phrase has many grammatical errors - and as such suggests an unsophisticated speaker. It is likely he took offense at a comment that insulted his intelligence. A polite form of the expression would be "The words you spoke are an insult, sir! Prepare for fisticuffs." But, I'm not interested in the formal version, but something that reflects the easy offense by someone lacking cultural sophistication. Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 23:50
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    Ok, dann vielleicht... "Was: Ich geb dir gleich eins." or "Ich geb dir gleich (whatever last noun you had in your sentence)". Those would be literally "What? I will give you one/some." but it is clear that it refers to a punch. Another possibility would be "Du kriegst gleich was auf's Maul." ... literally "You are about to get a punch in the face." in harsh form. I am not sure as to how obvious and direct the English sentence is. The 2 I suggested are not equivocal at all. Stop or violence...
    – Emanuel
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 21:21
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    I forgot to mention... it is definitely colloquial working class drunk in a bar lingo but it is not slang as in only a certain group understands the meaning and it is also not regional.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 21:23
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    "Jetzt gibt's eins auf die Mütze", "Ich verpass dir gleich eine", "eins in die Fresse kriegen", "eins hinter die Ohren/Löffel kriegen", "ich verpass dir eine Tracht Prügel", ...
    – Em1
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 20:33

6 Answers 6


"Jetzt reicht es (mir)!/langt es (mir)!" ("Now that is enough"/"did it" ("for me"))

"Na, warte!" ("You just wait..." sometimes does not imply you WILL be waiting.)

"Willst (Du) Ärger/Stress?"/"Du willst wohl Stress?" (Are you looking for trouble?/You sure are looking for trouble aren't you?)

"Hast Du n' Problem?" ("Do you have a problem?") ... very offensive in certain contexts, esp because it can be interpreted as "It seems you consider ME/my group/race... a problem/unwanted/unwelcome?" or as "I seriously assume/assert you are not right in the head?!"

"Ich mach dich fertig/kaputt/platt/Krankenhaus/München/Messer" ... ("I'll break you/destroy you")... Careful, in some contexts you WILL be challenged to do so. The last three are deliberately grammatically incorrect slang ("make you hospital/Munich/knife")

"Das nimmst Du zurück, sonst." ("You take that back, or else.")

"Schnauze sonst Beule" ( (Shut up your) Snout, or (be in for a) goose egg!)


"Ich geb dir gleich...", especially combined followed by the object of a suggestion is sometimes a friendly but decisive ironic dismissal of that suggestion ("Bier trinken? Ich geb dir gleich Bier!") or of the terms used to describe something ("Wirf den alten Schrott doch weg" - "Ich geb dir gleich alten Schrott!"). Still, use that with extreme care when not familiar with it...

Disclaimer: ANY of these examples used on German speaking people can get you into a physical confrontation easily, or get you to be looked down upon as a violent/brutish/antisocial person, if your intent is misunderstood.

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    Ich mach dich Krankenhaus? Ich mach dich München? Ich mach dich Messer? Was zum Geier soll das sein? Wo sagt man sowas? Also krankenhausreif kenn ich ja noch, aber der Rest ergibt kein Sinn.
    – Em1
    Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 20:43
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    This is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanak_Sprak slang, and will be frequently understood (and considered VERY rude) in Germany. I am not sure where I heard the version with Munich first, it is referring to the violent subway crime in Munich a few years ago. PS disregard the definition on metapedia (doubtful neutrality, I am rather upset about finding that site!), the word used there is a strong racial slur and not the self ironic term en.wikipedia uses.
    – Andy
    Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 20:52
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    @Em1: Well, he already wrote "deliberately grammatically incorrect slang". I'd expect it to be rather common in, say, Kreuzberg. You usually won't say that at a dinner party, however :-) Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 20:57
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    @HendrikVogt Kreuzberg? I thought they make me Berlin. But honestly... Does someone say something like that? And just to say it, the wrong grammatic is not the problem. The semantic is what I wonder about.
    – Em1
    Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 21:05
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    @Em1: I forgot to say that I was mainly referring to "Isch mach disch Krankenhaus" (yes, with ch pronounced like sch). And yes, I'm sure people say this. There's the song "Ich mach dich Krankenhaus, dann siehst du scheisse aus" - but I'm not really sure what came first, the song or the expression. Please ask a question on GL&U! Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 6:50

Takkat correctly points out that "them's fighting words" nowadays is mostly used in an ironic way. It's in a category with "smile when you say that, pardner!" and the person using the phrase will often affect a Texas twang and a swagger.

Again correctly, Takkat notes that the phrase is tied to a cultural/historical/regional background and there is no direct equivalent in German.

None of the German phrases offered by the respondents fits the bill, in my opinion.

I wonder why you think you need to have this in German for your keynote presentation? Presumably you will be delivering your talk in English to an audience familiar with American colloquialisms. You can supplement the auditory channel with body language and a mock-angry expression. (Donning a ten-gallon hat would probably be overkill...)

In the unlikely event that the conference organizers have budgeted for simultaneous interpreters, you can trust the interpreter to think of something that hits the right note. As a conference interpreter myself, I could think of a dozen wildly different choices, depending on context and the mood of speaker & audience... but it's a spur of the moment thing. To be sure, if you can make the time to talk to the interpreters before your presentation, it's helpful if you alert them to your plans.

So to sum up, don't worry about the translation. Be yourself and have a good time talking about your work. And at the end you pull out the six-shooter and ask, Any Questions?! That'll learn 'em.


To what I have found out "Them's fightin' words" originated in the American Old Wild West where it often led to a real physical (fist) fight when spoken out after having heard something insulting. The meaning seems to have changed over time to a more ironical or familiar usage today.

Taken this it is not easy to find a 100% translation to a German expression, as we don't have this historical background, and the idiom should also reflect the ambiguity to some extent.

In situations, when a somewhat heated or even insulting debate was going on you may hear people say in response:

"Willst Du Streit, oder was?!" - this may further heat up the debate (or terminate it).
"Verarschen kann ich mich selbst." - quite strong slang language.
"Jetzt geht's aber los hier!" - sort of a menace that something may start.

From discussions in comments we hear that a slang expression is wanted that puts a negative connotation to reputation or "Karma". In this context it was discussed that we may say something like "Ansehen? Ich geb' Dir was zum Ansehen!". As this may be correct and probably well understood, it is not very common (and not really slang by the way). Why not use a very common, very rude, and quite offensive expression like:

"Dein Karma* kannst Du Dir sonstwo hin stecken!"

* Karma as a name for reputation does not need translation.

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    Noch so'n Ding, Augenring! Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 0:54
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    Noch so'n Spruch: Kiefernbruch! Commented Mar 11, 2012 at 18:53
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    @userunknown I think it should be Kieferbruch. Kiefernbruch sounds as if you were referring to Kiefern.
    – RoToRa
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 12:04

When I took German in high school (1982), our German teacher had a pet phrase that she would should when we would get out of line or cross with each other. She would call us a gangster or villain. "Du bist Boesewicht" was what she would say.

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    Ouch. Don't always rely on what teachers say. "Bösewicht" is hardly used for real people outside 19th century children's books. And it needs an article, probably: "Du bist ein Bösewicht."
    – Blackface
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 8:21

To my knowledge, there is no direct equivalent, if you meant to carry over all of the implications it has in English.

One of the implications I get from this is, that the speaker to be a bit of a hick (a person from rural USA). As this culture doesn't really exist in Germany, there are not a lot of colloquial references to it.


Ist was? usually means you have a problem with someone and it could lead to a fight if they say yes.

  • Das ist aber eine Universalphrase um Streit zu suchen, nicht nur nach mündlicher Beleidung. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 4:02

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