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I was comparing the company I work for with another one nearby. My coworker dismissed my comparison with "Ja, die sind aber eine ganz andere Hausnummer".

I reckon it signifies difference, but that is where my understanding ends. What would he try to convey?

If the comparison facts are of significance, both companies are roughly of the same size, field and turnaround. The other company is much older (about 80 years compared to my company's 30) and is more oriented towards high volume manufacturing whereas we do mostly services and tailored manufacturing. The Hausnummer phrase came as a response to me saying the other company having Betriebsrat - we don't have one.

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    This post is related, but no duplicate (since it is German) – Arsak Dec 12 '18 at 17:28
  • @RudyVelthuis So by preserving the sense of far-away position on the series on integers, it is in fact rather literal - much more so than just a generic "differs greatly". – Kilian Foth Dec 13 '18 at 7:12
  • @Kilian: Er... what? I can't find my comment anymore. I think I commented here, something about "different order of magnitude". – Rudy Velthuis Dec 13 '18 at 8:07
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There is not much more to be said than the phrase indeed is intended to mean they are substantially different. I believe (but don’t have sources) that it comes from the typical numbering of houses in German (or most European) streets: if the numbers are close by (e.g. 12 and 14) so are the houses but if the numbers are substantially different then you probably can’t see one house from the other (e.g. 12 and 194). This physical distance is likely supposed to emphasise a logical distance in the comparison.

  • I take your icon as a proof of validity! :-) – Pavel Dec 12 '18 at 18:59
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    Number 12 and 14 may be even the same house (in the sense of building). – Eller Dec 12 '18 at 20:31
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    Vielleicht noch sinnvoll darauf hinzuweisen, dass, obwohl der Unterschied von 12 zu 194 so groß ist wie der von 194 zu 12, der Terminus (soweit mir geläufig) nur für Vergleiche zum Größeren hin verwendet wird. – user unknown Dec 12 '18 at 23:44
  • @userunknown Ich würde das nicht ausschließen. Allerdings wird der Vergleich zum Größeren deutlich überwiegen. – Jan Dec 13 '18 at 4:30
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First said: I don't think Hausnummer refers to a real Hausnummer as found at houses. As said in this thread and this link Hausnummer also refers to

  • Schuhgröße
  • hohe Hausnummer = hohes Würfelergebnis
  • höhere Hausnummer = höherer Rang

So when you see "Hausnummer" as some kind of measurement or size, Das ist eine ganze andere Hausnummer becomes something like

This is much bigger/more important/total different (than us).

as said in the other given answers.

Synomns for this expression are

(eine) andere Größenordnung, (eine) andere Hausnummer, (eine) andere Kragenweite, (eine) andere Liga, (eine) andere Preisklasse, (ein) anderes Kaliber

Last but not least: There is another expression using the word Hausnummer.

Nenn mir mal eine (ungefähre) Hausnummer

Used when asking someone to guess a size/price/time it takes him/her to do something. This also refers to some kind of measurement.

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    To give English speakers a better idea, the usage of "Hausnummer" in this phrase is comparable to a phrase like "ballpark figure". If something is "eine ganz andere Hausnummer" than something else, the two are in completely different ballparks, so to speak, and comparing them probably won't yield useful results. – Henning Kockerbeck Dec 12 '18 at 20:11
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It means a lot more difficult/important.

Dieses Spiel haben wir gewonnen, aber nächste Woche geht's gegen die Bayern, das ist eine ganz andere Hausnummer.

  • Shouldn't we add a note on the other very popular use of "Hausnummer" in contemporary German, namely "Ich sag mal eine Hausnummer" meaning actually: "Let me give a rough estimate"? Which uses Hausnummer in quite a different way. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 12 '18 at 22:26
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    But the question was about eine ganz andere Hausnummer. – Janka Dec 12 '18 at 23:19
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    @Christian: not really a different meaning. That also asks for an estimate, for an order of magnitude, just like "ganz andere Hausnummer" is "different order of magnitude". "Hausnummer" simply means "number". – Rudy Velthuis Dec 13 '18 at 8:17
  • @Janka Yes, the meaning is different. I simply thought that it could be interesting additional information: a second popular phrase using the word Hausnummer, but using it in a metaphorical way, too. That's the common ground here: metaphorical use of Hausnummer. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 13 '18 at 10:04

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