Pourtant, en matière d'écart de langage, elle n'a rien à envier à personne.

  • = Someone made an inappropriate remark, but she’s had more than her fair share of slip-of-the-tongue moments herself. So when it comes to slips of the tongue, she has nothing to feel envious about towards anyone, as she is every bit as good/bad as others in the carelessness department. {sarcastically said}

The French expression "n'avoir rien à envier à quelqu'un" has the literal meaning of "(when it comes to something, someone) has nothing to feel envious about (towards someone else)", and figuratively refers to someone's good quality that is "every bit as good as someone else's".

In real-life usage, however, the expression is often used jokingly and sarcastically to point out someone's bad quality that is "every bit as bad as someone else's", as shown in the example above.

In conversation, its German equivalent eluded me. How do German speakers idiomatically express this idea?

  • I'm not quite sure I understand. Is she every bit as good/bad as someone else? Because that wouldn't really stand out, or is she superior in her quality (regardless of being better or worse) – infinitezero May 14 at 17:13
  • @infinitezero Hi. This expression is often used jokingly and sarcastically to compare two persons who are equally good/bad: "But you're no different!". – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens May 14 at 18:13

I think you mean

jemandem in nichts nachstehen

which is used to express equality, both positively and ironically.

  • Indirectly usually even superiority, I think. But this is exactly the phrase I thought of when reading the question. – sgf May 14 at 19:36
  • Or, etwas in nichts nachstehen as it may be used to describe things, too. – Janka May 14 at 19:58
  • or "jemandem oder etwas gleich/ebenbürtig sein" – der bender May 15 at 14:43

Pollitzer's answer is suitable In formal speech and written language. In colloquial speech I'd rather use

die hat's gerade nötig (was zu sagen)
[don't know what she is talking about]

NB: Beware - shifting the phonetic stress to 'nötig' changes the meaning completely, into a rude comment ( 'she is needy right now' ).

  • I don't see a difference in meaning with phonetic stress put on either die or nötig. For me it sounds equally annoyed. – Christian Geiselmann May 16 at 10:36
  • 1
    @ChristianGeiselmann Speaking frankly, the rude meaning is 'Die braucht/will gerade einen F***' which you don't get in stressing the initial article, as long as you do not put a secondary stress on 'nötig' (the latter exemplifies the generic pattern of emphasis by primary phonetic stress). – collapsar May 16 at 11:01

I don't think there is an exact match but there is a nuber of idioms that are similar. As pointed out "jemandem in nichts nachstehen" referres to equallity in any flavor (including virtues, vices or neutral behaviour/ prefereces). It usually referrs to a student/child/successor/less-known that is just as ... as the tutor/parent/predecessor/well-known and tend to be used either for positive thoughts (including well loved flaws) or for extrems (like the successor that is just as brutal as his predecessor).

For explicidly bad or negetive thoughts, you could use "jemand ist kein Stück besser als jemand" (someone is not a single bit better than someone).

For irony I'd use something like "Wir sind (doch) alle ..." (We all are ...) for excample "arme Sünder" (poor sinners), "hater" (internet langualge, just cut the 's' of "haters"), "Lästermäuler" (scandalmongers).

If you just want to express that ppl. or things are every bit as ..., you can say "das nimmt sich nichts" or "da is der/das eine so gut wie der/das andere" (note that "gut" does not necessarily referes to something good here, it's just of the same quality - "Güte". You could use another adjective but "gut" works for every context")

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