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Ruhig Brauner!

is a German idiom which means

Calm down!

It is from Richard Wagner's opera "Ring der Nibelungen - Die Walküren", where in one scene a horse (Brauner - Bay horse) is restless and Helmwige says

„Ruhig Brauner! Brich nicht den Frieden! - Quiet, Brownie! break not the peace, now.“

Even without knowing the origin of the idiom, it was always clear to me that the origin was something that is said to a horse like in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf-0byCkZUM

My understanding of using it in online forums has always been mild ironic mockery (at most), but I noticed that it is more and more often seen as an insult. Often from people who don't know or don't understand the idiom and who think Brauner is referring to a Nazi (so calling them a Nazi or "besorgten Bürger" this way). Or maybe because no one has ever calmed down online when he was told "calm down".

So is "Ruhig Brauner!" an innocent idiom or is it an insult? Is there a difference in online/offline conversations?

EDIT:

Examples where this idiom caused some trouble

  • 2
    "and who think Brauner is referring to a Nazi" that's only a side effect, and doesn't refer to the original idiom. – πάντα ῥεῖ Feb 15 at 18:00
  • 1
    This is definitely an opinion-based question. Hence my downvote. – Nico Feb 15 at 20:46
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    I consider it opinion-based, too, hence my flag. It is nevertheless not a bad question, so no downvote. – Volker Landgraf Feb 16 at 11:11
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    My answer would be: it is neither. Your reference seems far from authoritative concerning the idiom case, and the political context seems far-fetched, if the horse just happens to have this color. That a phrase can be used as an insult, is no convincing reason, that this must be caused by the phrase. – guidot Feb 16 at 13:41
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    Who says this is an idiom? The fact that it is a line from a Wagner opera does not make it an idiom. I have been living in Germany for several decades, and I have never met that phrase. – Christian Geiselmann Feb 16 at 15:30
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I disagree with the answer from πάντα ῥεῖ: Living in the south of Germany I never saw "Ruhig Brauner" being used as an insult. We use it on a regular basis here (friends and family) and it is always meant as "calm down" with a wink, often accompanied by a neihging.

Sometimes it is used by "authorities" (bouncers at discos) in a means to calm down visitors that are not allowed to enter, but again: It's not an insult but a humorous way to achieve the goal.

Of course: If someone wants to link it to Nazis (because of the color brown) it might be done, but in my environment I never encountered this meaning.

2

I used it for many years as mild mockery. But I noticed recently that people increasingly get this very wrong (in the mentioned Nazi connotation) - so I will need to stop saying this.

1

So is "Ruhig Brauner!" an innocent idiom or is it an insult? Is there a difference in online/offline conversations?

It's more often an insult than an innocent idiom.

Often from people who don't know or don't understand the idiom and who think Brauner is referring to a Nazi (so calling them a Nazi or "besorgten Bürger" this way).

No, that's not the reason why it's seen as an insult in the most cases.
The insult comes from the fact that the addressee feels not being taken seriously because of being upset about something.

  • 1
    May this perception be a regional thing? Here in the north west of Germany I hear it mostly in informal situations in the family or among Colleges.“Ho, Brauner, komm mal runter!“ would never be associated with a Nazi – jmk Feb 16 at 7:59
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    @jmk I doubt that this is a regional thing. Even in informal contexts it's always a bit insulting. No one likes to hear "Komm' mal runter." when argumenting in an engaged manner. – πάντα ῥεῖ Feb 16 at 8:02
  • Und nachts ist es kälter als draußen. – user unknown Feb 17 at 23:44
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I don´t know why we use the idiom, but it´s originally not an insult to any skin color or ethnic background. In a different context this of course could be used and/or be perceived as offensive. It´s easier to just say "calm down", at least you won't offend unknowing passerby.

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    Skin color or ethnic never was in question here. – πάντα ῥεῖ Feb 16 at 17:28
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    @πάνταῥεῖ The linked article obviously discusses the question if it was a racist remark. The downvote is not justified. – Olafant Feb 16 at 19:04
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    @Olafant: "Brauner" ist auch in anderen Kontexten keine gebräuchliche, rassistische Beleidigung. Es war auch früher keine. Es kann somit schlecht als rassistische Beleidigung verwendet werden, wenn es nicht als solche verstanden wird. – user unknown Feb 17 at 23:43
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    @userunknown Lies dir doch einfach mal den verlinkten Artikel durch. Auch ich habe das noch nie damit in Verbindung gebracht. Offenbar tun das aber heute einige. – Olafant Feb 18 at 5:47
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    @Olafant Ich sehe das auch so. In manchen Fällen konmt es nicht darauf an, wie eine Äußerung gemeint ist, sondern wie sie aufgefasst wird. Gerade bei nur regional verbreiteten Redewendungen ist die Gefahr groß, dass es zu Missverständnissen kommt. Interessant in diesem Zusammenhang übrigens auch osthessen-zeitung.de/einzelansicht/news/2019/august/… – Paul Frost Feb 23 at 10:39

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