7

How would a father bemoan his child who is always getting into trouble? He is trying to say:

It’s unfathomable to me how you have managed to spill wine on your white shirt.

Would it be undurchschaubar or unergründlich? Or some other word?

The word should not have the connotation of mysterious as in “The lord moves in mysterious ways”, which I think is unergründlich, because the father is speaking with anger and frustration.

  • 6
    Another aside: Why on earth did the child have wine in their hands !? ;-) – Peter A. Schneider Jan 13 at 12:05
  • @userunknown Ah, right: child is a homophone (indicates relatedness, or age). But why would somebody berate their adult child like that? ;-). – Peter A. Schneider Jan 14 at 11:33
  • The child is obviously quite neglected by his parents :( – Carma Jan 14 at 13:46
  • @Carma: about French children... it depends on the family customs, but it has become rather rare nowadays. :-)) – J.P. Tosoni Jan 14 at 14:40
21

In this special context I would use:

Es ist mir schleierhaft, wie du den Wein über dein weißes Hemd schütten konntest.

The word comes from Schleier (veil) und therefore implies some restricted vision. Is wine really, what the child would handle?

Another option would be rätselhaft (translating to riddles me).

  • 1
    Upvote, because a direct (verbatim) translation is less idiomatic. – Stephie Jan 13 at 10:35
  • So this would be how a father would scold his child? – Carma Jan 13 at 15:31
  • Un­vor­stell­bar is fitting in that context as well – Zibelas Jan 14 at 10:08
  • @guidot The restriction on alcohol consumption is not so universal - if I'm not mistaken, French children (well, starting at about 11-12 years of age) are allowed some wine from time to time. – Carma Jan 14 at 13:52
6

Unergründlich is the more suitable word compared to undurchschaubar.

Es ist mir unergründlich, wie du es geschafft hast Wein auf dein weißes Hemd zu schütten/kippen.

Alternatively you could also use "unfassbar".

Es ist unfassbar, wie du es geschafft hast Wein auf dein weißes Hemd zu schütten/kippen.

There is a slight difference between the two. While "unergründlich" marks the lack of finding the underlying reasoning ("Grund") of the action (The why), "unfassbar is more concerned with the action itself and how it is even possible to pull of (maybe even repeatedly), you simply can not get a firm grip ("fassen") on the concept (The how).

When it comes to the bible quote, the following is the most common translation.

Die Wege des Herrn sind unergründlich.

  • Thanks! Is there another option that I did not list? I mean for the word to have negative connotation, as in - "You did something so stupid! It's unfathomable to me why you did it." – Carma Jan 13 at 8:31
  • @Carma: i think "unfassbar" already carries a fair share of negative connotations. Alternatively you could use "unglaublich". In a scenario of a parent who is scolding a spilling kid for the millionth time, I'd prefer "unfassbar". In your second scenario, i would connect the expression with the already present negative word. "Du hast etwas unfassbar dummes/bescheuertes gesagt. Wie konntest du nur?" – BestGuess Jan 13 at 8:41
  • I like "unergründlich". The verb "to fathom" (ausloten) seems be closely connected to "ergründen". In Grimms' Deutsches Wörterbuch you find "einen Brunnen mit dem Wurfblei ergründen; die Tiefe des Flusses ist nicht zu ergründen". – Frank from Frankfurt Jan 14 at 12:19
5

"Unfassbar" should be the most accurate translation.

"Unfathomable" has a meaning in the sense that it is not possible to get your mind arounds something, because you don't see where it begins or where it ends. This is the same for "unfassbar".

"Schleierhaft" goes more in a direction of not being able to see clearly, why something ist the way it is.

"Unergründlich" means you are not able to get to the bottom of something. This also has a literal match by Grund being the noun of "unergründlich", which can be used as the "bottom" of a river (bis auf den Grund sehen).

"Unbegreiflich" is very close in meaning, but hints a bit more to a limit in the ability of understanding something on an intellecutal level. "Unfassbar" puts the issue even above possible comprehension.

2

In this type of sentence, you would generally not use any adjective in a "es ist mir..." construction. Instead, it feels more natural to use a verb:

Ich verstehe überhaupt nicht, wie du es schon wieder geschafft hast, Wein zu verschütten.

The adjective (or noun) would be pushed into an additional sentence after this, such as:

Das ist mir unergründlich. (closest to what you want)
Dafür habe ich kein Verständnis. (more colloquial)
Das ist mir unbegreiflich. (this one sounds quite somber)

"Undurchschaubar" is not suitable in this context. It is not normally used in a "es ist mir..." form, but more commonly with a noun:

Ein undurchschaubarer Plan.
Sein Gesichtsausdruck ist undurchschaubar.

2

I would add to the schleierhaft of guidot and the ich verstehe nicht of KWeiss

"Unfassbar! Wie hast du es nur geschafft, Wein auf dein weißes Hemd zu schütten?"

or

"Ich fass' es nicht! Wie hast du es nur geschafft, Wein auf dein weißes Hemd zu schütten?"

This is a bit different from the sentence structure, but I think it transport the astonishment of the speaker

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