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I'm reading Ahoi aus Hamburg (a graded reader for German learners) and it says that the expression “Von wegen Venedig!”* means "So much for Venice!", and from other sites I see translations for "von wegen" such as "no way!", "not a chance!", etc... But my question is: how does the literal meaning of "von" and "wegen" give rise to this meaning?

Another post focuses on whether "von wegen" is polite or not and it seems there are different opinions perhaps based on region. Though many posts there offered translations for this expression, I had trouble gathering from them what might be the origin of this expression (perhaps because so much was in German). I also got no help from the Wiktionary, theFreeDictionary or other sources (btw, I'd be happy to receive advice on where to look)

From Linguee I do find related expressions which make sense to me: "von Rechts wegen" means "as a matter of law" and "von Berufs wegen" means "for professional reasons". In each of these cases the meaning relates closely to literal translations of "von" (from, out of) and "wegen" (because of, an account of) related to a noun.

But without the noun I'm left with "from because of" which makes me think, "Von wegen!"

*In response to a post by c.p., here is more context for how the expression is used: “Willkommen im Venedig des Nordens“, stand auf einem vergilbten Poster... Der Regen hatte genau in dem Moment begonnen, als ich aus dem Zug stieg. Was für ein Glück! Nun wartete ich, dass es aufhörte, aber der Himmel war schwarz und es blitzte und donnerte. Von wegen Venedig!”

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  • @c.p. I’ve now added more context – Tony M Oct 4 '19 at 18:14
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Note that von by itself can have a causal component.

Seid ihr auch manchmal einfach nur noch müde von dem ganzen Elternstress? Dann gönnt euch doch erst einmal eine ausgiebige Runde Schlaf. (1)

Mr LeFroy trat hinter mir in das Halbdunkel der Hütte. Diese bestand auf den ersten Blick nur aus einem winzigen Raum. Von früher wußte ich jedoch, daß es noch mehrere Verschläge gab, in denen Maud verschiedene Essenzen und Mixturen aufbewahrte. (2)

Die Eltern nahmen Cengiz schon im Säuglingsalter mit nach Deutschland. Türkisch hat er nie so richtig gelernt, dafür aber spricht er geschliffen Deutsch, besser als viele alteingesessene Nürnberger. Yürü: "Das kommt vom vielen Lesen." (3)

In colloquial use, this has led to pleonastic von wegen. (Both sentences are taken from the DWDS-Korpus.)

Das andere Mädchen, ihre Freundin (hübsche Mädchen haben immer häßliche Freundinnen ... von wegen der Kontrastwirkung) war ausgesprochen reizlos und plump.

Gerd ist eben aus seinem Bett gekrochen und hat barfuß seine Morgenvisite bei mir gemacht, wie immer habe ich ihm das Barfußlaufen verwiesen von wegen drohendem Rheumatismus, wie immer hat er es verteidigt als Merkmal seiner Persönlichkeit.

In these examples, von wegen is still clearly causal. Also note this gem:

I: Damit meinte er, du solltest in die Türkei gehen, oder was meinte er damit?
F: Ja, so von wegen weil ich mich nicht integrieren will oder so. (4)


The question remains how von wegen by itself got the meaning of no way. Here, I can only offer speculation. Imagine being invited to visit a friend in Hamburg with the following reason:

Du solltest uns mal besuchen kommen, weil wir immer schönes Wetter haben.

But during your visit, it is always rainy. Standing drenched, you echo your friend's reason ironically:

Weil wir immer schönes Wetter haben!

Or, in other words:

Von wegen schönes Wetter!

Twisted around:

Schönes Wetter? Von wegen!

Note that in the idiomatic no way use of von wegen, wegen is always strongly stressed and does not govern a case: von WEGen schönes Wetter! as opposed to causal von wegen der KonTRASTwirkung.

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  • 3
    You might get a good idea of how the set phrase "von wegen" is used, if you compare it to the English idiom "as if": "Good weather? As if!" – Henning Kockerbeck Oct 4 '19 at 22:06
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    Yes, "as if" is actually a very close translation both in meaning and in colloquial use. – miw Oct 5 '19 at 7:09
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I appreciate the responses to my post, but they didn't address the root of my question. I did think the comparison of "von wegen" with "as if" in a brief comment by @HenningKockerbeck was quite insightful, but it still lacked the connection to the words "von" or "wegen" that I was looking for.

So I did some more searching and came across an explanation in Emanuel Schuchart's YourDailyGerman blog:

...the key lies in the word wegen. Because wegen comes directly from the word der Weg, the way. The meaning because of is evolved as a variation of the idea by way of. And the phrase von wegen makes perfect sense once we think of it as “off ways”. Like off track.

I'm not sure it "makes perfect sense" but at least it makes sense to me and directly answers my question. Any thoughts?

Speaking of "weg", my post also had a "by the way" where I asked for places to look for word meanings like this:

"btw, I'd be happy to receive advice on where to look"

Emanuel's site is the best thing I've seen yet and I really appreciate that it's written in a way that beginners like me can enter in. Anyone know of other resources like this? I'm sure there are other folks like me who want to increase vocabulary by really learning why German words mean what they do.

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  • It seems easier to analyze "von wegen" in its different usage patterns. It's indecicive in my mind whether "von wegen" was concessive inititially, as a kind of emphasis, and only later, rather recently, turned sarcastic and finally had the referent elided to render a sole dismissive "Von wegen!". Any literal interpretation of the individual constituents would have to be very old, and thus unlikely or at least hard to prove. Anyhow "off the way" finds a reflex in abwegig "absurd". I'd also compare "wegen" to wh-words, naturally. – vectory Oct 5 '19 at 18:02
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I would translate it as "Venice, my ass!" or, less salopp, "Venice, they say...", or, as in your suggestion, "So much for Venice..."

"No way this is Venice!" is another alternative, not quite dissimilar in the meaning from the first interpretations.

Von wegen as such is an idiomatic expression whose meaning cannot be directly extracted from the meanings of "von" and "wegen"

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  • "No way this is Venice!" only fits if the exclamation is about something/somewhere being Venice, of course (as opposed to, for instance, travelling to Venice). – O. R. Mapper Oct 5 '19 at 14:10
  • could the ambiguous interpretation stem from a reinterpretation alluding to weg ~ Weg. Otherwise cp "auf jeden", "auf jeden Fall" -- "auf" is similarly insignificant in that case, except when comparing En "in any case" as well as simi,arly sounding on "auf", Fr en "in, bei"; sowie ob, En if Goth. jabai etc. I want to say "dabei:" is effectively opposite to "von wegen" but I can't make rhyme or reason from it. Anyhow @DavidVogt translated "as if" below. I say "Away Venedig, good bye!" is what I tried to allude to, but you have to read between the lines to make sense of it – vectory Oct 5 '19 at 17:50
  • ... and I kind of missed "Of course". Doesn't course remind of way? Of course! – vectory Oct 5 '19 at 17:54
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I grew up in Hamburg and explain it like this:

Some reasoning was announced:

Wegen Regens gehe ich nicht raus!

Because of rain i will not go out!

But obvious reality dismisses the reasoning from there on:

Von wegen Regen! Ich geh jetzt raus!

No rain after all? I am going out!

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