I am translating a Till Eulenspiegel story from German to English, and I encountered the following sentence (source, see section 22]:

Eulenspiegels Frechheit brachte den braven Mann vollends auf den Baum.

[The preceding context is that the baker, for whom Till Eulenspiegel worked, left him alone in the bakery to bake, and when Till asked what should he bake, the baker answered sarcastically "Eulen und Meerkatzen", with Till doing exactly that, which angered the baker very much when he found out.]

So, I figured that the bolded phrase in the quoted sentence above may be an idiom, but I couldn't find it in my online and offline dictionaries, nor in Redensarten-Index, so - what does it mean?

  • I don't know about German but up a tree is an idiom in English, apparently with the same meaning. – RDBury Sep 30 '20 at 7:04
  • Yes, but it does not have the same meaning in English as in German. – Don_S Sep 30 '20 at 7:07
  • It's not in the Wiktionary entry, but I was thinking of "to drive someone up a tree", onlineslangdictionary. Occasionally you get idioms that are direct translations of each other, but I'm thinking it's just a coincidence in this case. – RDBury Sep 30 '20 at 7:26

After googling the phrase "bringen auf den baum", I ran into this result, which has the similar expression "Jemanden auf die Palme bringen" explained to mean that someone/something is so annoying, it makes you climb a tree (even though sitting in a tree is not particularly comfortable...).

Thus, the phrase "Jemanden auf die Palme/den baum bringen" means: 'to annoy someone very much'.

  • That's correct. The "Baum" variant is hardly used any more, today it's almost exclusively "auf die Palme bringen". The idea, I think, is that the anger level is rising and rising tree-high, and once you're in a state of anger, it's not that easy to calm down. There's also the phrase "Komm erstmal runter!" that you can say to someone who is "auf der Palme". – HalvarF Sep 30 '20 at 6:24
  • So you think the use of Palm became more prevalent mainly because of its height? – Don_S Sep 30 '20 at 6:32
  • I have honestly no idea why the palmtree won, given that it is not very prevalent in Germany. – HalvarF Sep 30 '20 at 6:38
  • I'd suspect that in Germany Baum is quite often differentiated into which kind (Eiche, Buche, ...) as well as for talk as for idioms. Contrary to the existence of hundred kinds of palmtrees, German people usually never see a palmtree in the wild, so there are neither idioms about specific palmtrees nor is there any hindrance to subsume any kind of palmtree as Palme for everyday use. – Shegit Brahm Sep 30 '20 at 13:45

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