2

Can someone explain the sense behind the expression „nichts wie raus hier“? I found it in Café in Berlin (a graded reader designed for German learners) which says it means “let’s get the hell out of here”. I’ve googled to try to find an explanation based on the literal meaning. But I even have trouble coming up with what that would be: “not as out of here“? “not how out of here“? “not like out of here“?

  • 2
    This gets you only a little step further, but still: nichts is nothing. – Carsten S Sep 10 at 10:19
  • @CarstenS - that’s an important step for me - thanks. I remember learning that but now maybe it will stick. It’s important here. – Tony M Sep 10 at 10:30
  • similar question in German: german.stackexchange.com/questions/23402/… – mtwde Sep 10 at 13:33
  • @mtwde makes a good point. However, I personally have received a lot more help by the responses to this post than I could have received by that one because my German is so weak. Only now after I’ve been helped can I appreciate it – Tony M Sep 10 at 13:47
  • 1
    @TonyM It's perfectly fine to ask a question in English that's already answered in German ( and vice versa ). I added the link for users who are more fluent in German as you are in English and sometimes answers from similar questions take a look at different aspects ^^. – mtwde Sep 10 at 16:57
9

It seems your (only) problem is the part "Nichts wie...".

This is used in a number of phrases in casual oral communication.

Thieves after noticing that they were being spotted by the home owner:

Nix wie weg!

(Nix is a popular casual/oral short form of nichts)

People in a house that caught fire:

Nichts wie raus hier!

People in the garden, surprised by a sudden thunderstorm, and finding it the best option to quickly retreat into the house:

Herrje, ein Gewitter! Nichts wie rein!

The full meaning would be something like:

Es bleibt uns nichts anderes übrig, als hier schnell zu verschwinden (or what ever action is needed)

Or if you insist on having the wie used in the long sentence, take

Nichts ist jetzt so geraten wie hier schnell wegzugehen.

But of course in cases of emergency you prefer shorter (and less twisted) expressions, therefore Nichts wie...

A bit less expressive you could also say:

Schnell weg!

Schnell rein!

Schnell raus!

  • I agree that “Nichts wie...” is the key to my difficulty. Based on your explanation this expression translates as 1) “Nothing left to do but ...” which is pretty natural in English, but doesn’t account for the use of “wie“, or 2) “Nothing is so advisable AS ...” which accounts for the use of “wie“ but is awkward in English. – Tony M Sep 10 at 10:42
  • 1
    Nichts is jetzt so ratsam wie hier schnell wegzugehen is also akward in German. It is a well-formed and very polished sentence, but the high register does not suit the urgency of the situation. An interesting follow-up question would be: when did Nichts wie + [adverb of direction] appear for the first time in writing? - I would suppose it would have appeared as part of some novel or short story, so not earlier than after 1850, but that's now really just a totally unsubstantiated guess. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 10 at 14:40
  • That helps. Though the longer sentence may be awkward in both English & German, there seems to be no equivalent of the short version in English; ie, "Nothing as out of here", "Nothing like out of here", etc.. make no sense at all in English. I conclude that I shouldn't try to associate an additional meaning to "wie" in my head based on this phrase, but rather just accept this contraction as idiomatic. – Tony M Sep 10 at 16:37
  • Maybe it helps to note that "wie" is used in various other ways than a bona-fide question word. That is regional substandard "ich bin viel klüger wie du" for example. Indeed, I guess nichts als ... can be found, though as far as I know not used with "... raus". Perhaps it's more helpful to look at "so", "also", none so ... Another parallel might be nun aber raus. I'm not at all interested in overanalyzing this, but I would always rather expect a fossilized inheritance; At that, note that nu- had been a negative polarity particle introducing questions in Gothic. Also cp nur zu. – vectory Sep 11 at 19:20
1

It literally means "Nothing (is (as good)) as/like (going) out (of) here". Similar constructs can also be found in English, eg "Nothing like a hot bath now!", or Latin "Nihil nisi...." (nothing if not....).

Alternatively, it could be a contraction of "nichts (zu tun) wie (=als) raus hier (zu gehen)", "nothing (to do) than out of here (walk/go)".

Very strictly speaking, all these are subtly incorrect: "raus" is a simplification of "heraus" (out TO HERE = out of there), not "hinaus" (out TO THERE = out of here). In practice, used interchangeably.

  • Likewise French ne ... que ... used in various constructions, mostly translated as "nur" (nur Jacque könnte das Wissen) and demanding subjunctive. At that, I'd compare "bloß weg, bloß schnell raus, nur schnell weg hier, etc.*, Eng nothing but, indeed nothing/none like, and perhaps Ger "nun aber ..." on the one hand, and expression of wishes and such like on the other. – vectory Sep 11 at 19:35
  • The word raus is used (in some dialects) for both hinaus and heraus, even by speakers who distinguish the two. There is nothing wrong about that. – Carsten S Sep 12 at 7:06
  • I very much oppose the position that raus was a contraction in all cases. A trilled uvular is one outcome of Germanic *k (otherwise /h/, /x/ and the like), e.g. in Dach, which sounds very dry and falls together with the "r" in "trocken" ~ "tchocken". The difference is miniscule, whether it's a rhotic h'aus or an elided 'r-aus, because the -r in -he-r surely does not stem exclusively from that process. Not to mention that I've pretty much made that up--not to say found out--by myself. It's not a theory, just a working hypothesis. raus is a separate word in dialect, at any rate. – vectory Sep 12 at 11:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.