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What is the meaning of the expression "reine Höhle"? I guess it means "tranquility" or "peace" but I want to be sure.

I saw it in the proverb: Schöne Seele will reine Höhle.

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    @marzipanherz No, it actually seems to be a proverb - but I don't get its meaning... – Thorsten Dittmar Jul 19 '18 at 8:24
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    This seems to be Mens sana in corpore sano – tofro Jul 19 '18 at 8:47
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    Are you sure you do not mean "reine Hölle?" - "Das war die reine Hölle" is a very common everyday language (or slightly slang) expression for "This was a very bad or difficult situation." – Christian Geiselmann Jul 19 '18 at 9:50
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    A Google search on "Schöne Seele reine Höhle" finds surprisingly many results. With "Hölle", I am not able to find anything. – tofro Jul 19 '18 at 13:25
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    @ChristianGeiselmann Auch wenn die Wortgruppe reine Hölle so grundsätzlich geläufig/gebräuchlich ist - was genau wäre dann die Bedeutung des kompletten Sprichworts? – Arsak Jul 19 '18 at 13:54
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Although I have actually never heard this before (so I'd state it is not exactly a common idiom in German), I would say this seems to mean more or less the same thing as the old Latin

Mens sana in corpore sano

As it literally means a fine soul wants to dwell in a clean cave - thus, in a figurative meaning essentially the same meaning.

You could ask what exactly a cave or cavity has to do with that proverb instead of Körper or even Leib? I would assume a rhyme (Seele <-> Höhle) always helps in a proverb, and Höhle has at least some notation of containment.

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    Ähm... corpore ist der Ablativ von Körper, nicht Höhle. – Takkat Jul 19 '18 at 9:29
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    @Takkat Sprichwörter brauchen manchmal ein Mindestmaß an Phantasie. Eine Tropfsteinhöhle, die man vorher schrubben soll, bevor man seine Seele reintut, ist bestimmt nicht gemeint. – tofro Jul 19 '18 at 9:31
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    Mens bella in caverna sana also? Hm... – Christian Geiselmann Jul 19 '18 at 11:16
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    Nachdem Höhle nie die Bedeutung Körper hatte müßte man postulieren, dass irgendjemand irrtümlicherweise einmal die Hülle (kann man in der Bedeutung Hülle für die Seele durchaus akzeptieren) in eine Höhle verwandelt hätte... das finde ich ziemlich konstruiert. Phantasiebegabten reicht aber vielleicht eine solche Tiefe an etymologischer Forschung. – Takkat Jul 19 '18 at 14:11
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    @Takkat Alleine schon die Begriffe Bauchhöhle oder Mundhöhle erlauben es durchaus, von Körperhöhlungen als einer Höhle zu sprechen. Hier scheint's mir aber wichtiger gewesen zu sein, dass es sich auf "Seele" reimt. – tofro Jul 19 '18 at 14:21
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I'd say 'reine Höhle' can be taken in a literal sense here, i.e. 'clean cave', meaning that a beautiful soul cannot have / does not want a messy home / environment.

This may be based on the saying that a chaotic room / house reflects the mental state of its owner, for which I'm currently lacking more specific sources other than having heard it a lot.

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Summarizing the facts collected collectively here in answers and comments, and adding some information from a 19th century source:

Schöne Seele will reine Höhle

seems to be an old proverb. It is documented in Karl Simrock's collection of proverbs published in 1846 (as commenter LangLangC pointed out first) which again is a compilation of a number of earlier such collections, as its preface explains [Simrock 1846 p. IV]. Proverbs in this book are listed in alphabetical order based on one of the core words used in the proverbs.

Regarding the "Seele-Höhle" proverb itself one might add that it is not in use any more - therefore the struggle to interpret it visible here in the comments. I have not heard, read or otherwise met it even once in several decades of private and professional use of German.

One can even not be sure that the proverb was in common use at any time. Generally, the book of 1846 is the result of a number of earlier attempts of collecting proverbs that could be described as casting a fishing net and catching everything that people in even the remotest village have ready as everyday wisdom put into fixed phrases. What ever was found was recorded as a proverb, even if it was known only to a very tiny group of people.

For the meaning of "Schöne Seele will reine Höhle": there is no attempt of interpreting it in the 1846 collection. My guess is that is was used as an amonition to keep one's house tidy. If that's correct you could translate it to (rather prosaic) modern day German:

Ein psychisch gesunder und normal sozialisierter Mensch achtet darauf, dass auch seine Umgebung einen ordentlichen Eindruck macht.

Or to express it the other way round with a proverb that is still in use:

Wie der Herr, so's G'scherr.

The general idea of congruence of inner and outer order, inner and outer health, inner and outer beauty is of course nothing special German; it is a meme (if you like) that can be found in I suppose every culture on planet earth. (Would be interesting though to see what e.g. groups of people - once called "tribes" - living remotely in the djungle have in that respect.) I believe one could create a whole class of proverbs expressing this meme. This would include except of "Wie der Herr, so's Gscherr":

Mens sana in corpore sano

Ordnung ist das halbe Leben

(List to be continued. I will add proverbs suggested in comments.)

Another theory of the genesis of such a saying would be that it is a substitute proverb for the famous Latin "mens sana in corpore sano". I would find it plausible to assume that, in order to provide students with an easily memorable translation, some school teacher in the early 19th century came up with the (a bit tortured) translation "Schöne Seele will reine Höhle" where Höhle is used as a metaphora for the dwelling place of the mind, i.e. the body.


Bibliography

Simrock, Karl: Deutsche Sprichwörter. (= Die deutschen Volksbücher. Gesammelt und in ihrer ursprünglichen Echtheit wiederhergestellt von Karl Simrock. Fünfter Band.) Frankfurt am Main, 1846.

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  • Als wahrscheinliche Quelle für das OP Zitat nehme ich aber stark an, dass der Hinterwalddörfler auf einer Lateinschule war und sich in Poetik+Humor versuchen wollte? Oder realistischer: weniger von einem Lehrer als aus dem Studentendeutsch, ein juveniler Juvenalist, vielleicht sogar aus burschenschaftlicher Deutschtümelei? Daher als Zeitraum von Sturm&Drang bis Willy2? Oh, caveat Spekulatius. – LаngLаngС Jul 20 '18 at 21:40
  • Btw die Dänischen Varianten sind interessant (cf. Marzipanherz) und dies hier auf zeno wie auch andere Einträge drumrum dort. Und zur gegenwärtigen Verwendung ein aktuelles Buch oder ein Blog?. Denk ja oft an Goethe und den Untertitel von Wilhelm Meister. – LаngLаngС Jul 20 '18 at 22:01

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