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Do people in Austria say

etwas in den Schornstein schreiben

to mean write something off, consider something a loss?

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    I've heard this on several occasions in Germany and yes, it means something is burnt and gone, often times (but maybe not restricted to) money or something that was obtained with a cost. I am not an Austrian and so equally curious if it is used there, too. – a_donda Jun 24 '20 at 21:20
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    @a_donda: Actually, not the burning is targeted in this phrase, but the soot making the writings illegibel soon, see Redensarten-Index. – guidot Jun 25 '20 at 13:47
  • Aw. That's indeed a new aspect to me. – a_donda Jun 25 '20 at 13:49
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Do people in Austria say it once in a while? Good question.

What we can say is, that this saying can be found in Austrian (online) newspapers:

Anleihen-Tausch: Wie ein diskreter Deal ein Heta-Problem löste

Denn mit einem Abschlag von 55 Prozent auf ihre Forderungen steigen diese Gläubiger deutlich schlechter aus als die Inhaber vorrangiger Papiere, die nur zehn Prozent in den Schornstein schreiben müssen.

FP-Herzog: Scharfe Kritik des Kontrollamtes an der Stadthalle

Durch diese mehr als lockere Geschäftsgebarung der Stadthalle ist nun zu befürchten, dass der Wiener Steuerzahler die Verbindlichkeiten des Herrn H. gegenüber der Stadthalle in der Höhe von 185.000 in den Schornstein schreiben darf.


But you may take a look at this paper - Das österreichische Deutsch in der Phraseologie, which indicates, that

etwas in den Rauchfang schreiben

is the more common Austrian equivalent to this saying, as Rauchfang is the Austrian word for Schornstein.

Buchrezension | „Wir sind der Verein“ von Alina Schwermer

Der HSV ist gerade abgestiegen und kann seine Parole „Unabsteigbar!“ somit in den Rauchfang schreiben.

Öööööööööööö und ThThTh

Bemerkenswert war dabei auch, dass das angebliche Unternehmen in der südisländischen Gemeinde Hvolsvöllur keine einzige Krone an Vermögen besaß und die Gläubiger ihre 4,8 Millionen Kronen (17.680 Euro) Forderungen nun in den Rauchfang schreiben können.

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  • Thank you for the quick responses. I'm living in Vienna, only know the Standard German variety, and am trying to prepare for the C1 ÖSD exam, So I am trying to develop a strategy for learning idioms that best prepares me for the exam but are also understood, or even used, by people who live here. The fact that it is in newspapers means I should learn it. – tom Jun 25 '20 at 8:03
  • Can I ask, how did you scan the Austrian online newspapers for this saying? I will then be able to research new idioms myself. Thanks again. – tom Jun 25 '20 at 8:05
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    @tom The most simple way is to know "how to google efficiently". For example, you can set your search region to Austria. But in this case (and because you are already in austria), all you have to know are some austrian sites, like derstandard.at or orf.at. In this case search for <"rauchfang schreiben" orf.at> or <"rauchfang schreiben" derstandard.at> (including the quotation marks "") and you will find lots of entries. A more narrow search would be <"rauchfang schreiben" site:derstandard.at>. – mtwde Jun 25 '20 at 9:58
  • Rauchfang is an exclusively Austrian term, correct? – tom Jun 25 '20 at 11:00
  • @tom mostly, but there are other regions: [Verteilung von Schornstein / Kamin / Rauchfang / etc in D/A/CH]atlas-alltagssprache.de/runde-3/f14c/() – mtwde Jun 25 '20 at 11:29
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We in Austria say

etwas in den Rauchfang schreiben

and

etwas in den Kamin schreiben

I thought, that

etwas in den Schornstein schreiben

is a phrase used only in Germany (not in Austria), because "Schornstein" is one of the many words that are not used by Austrian people. But that fact that you believe that it might be typical Austrian, makes me believe, that it is nowhere used really very frequently.

Austrian synonyms for Schornstein are Rauchfang and Kamin. I am not really sure about it, but I believe that in Germany a Kamin is only the open fireplace on the wall of some living rooms where you can burn wood, while the funnel, that leads the smoke out of the house in not meant with the word Kamin. In Austria a Kamin is both: fireplace and funnel (which is true also for the English word chimney). (English chimney and German Kamin both derive from the greek word κάμινος = kaminos which was a melting oven.) But Rauchfang and Schornstein both mean only the funnel, not the fireplace.

There is another word with a similar meaning: "Esse" This is a blacksmith's fireplace, used to forge iron and other metals. But I think there are regions in Germany, where you use Esse also as synonym for Schornstein.

Another synonym for Schornstein is Schlot. But this is the chimney of a factory that is visible often even from many dozens of kilometers. Also steamboats and steam locomotives have a Schlot.


The original German phrase is

etwas in den Kamin schreiben

and it means to write something onto the inner walls of a fireplace. When you do so, your writing soon will be covered by soot, maybe the text also will burn in the heat of the fire. But in any case the text will vanish soon and will be unable to be read soon. And when the written words are gone, their meaning is gone too. What is written onto the inner walls of a fireplace will be lost.

I have no idea, why in the phrase the location of the text moved from the fireplace up to the funnel, but fact is, that variations of the phrase exist, where Kamin was replaced by Rauchfang or Schornstein.

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  • "Kamin" and "Schornstein" are interchangeable, at least in Southern Germany. "Schornstein" is used in the northern part. "Kamin" is only an open fireplace when it's an "offener Kamin", or the context signals otherwise. – tofro Jun 27 '20 at 15:48

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