I found the sentence

Zuerst glühen wir bei mir vor.

in Memrise. According to them, it translates to

First, we'll have predrinks at my place.

and the literal translation

First, glow we by me before.

My question is, how does this make sense at all? Is there any other way to say it?

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    Here, it is complicated by a colloquialism, but in general, if a preposition (“vor”) seems wildly out of place, check whether it is perhaps part of a separable verb. We have those to make learning the language more, err, interesting. – Carsten S May 7 at 6:58
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    It is probably (well, definitely) not the best idea to translate German in to English word by word - and it could probably not be called literal translation. – user40500 May 7 at 14:05
  • @Ezze Confirm. Bei mir has nothing to do with by me, and the verbal part vor cannot be translated separately as before. The true 'literal' translation would be First, we'll pre-ignite at my place (or pre-glow at most). No wonder that OP thought that the sentence doesn't make sense. A translation of a correct sentence in the original language must always be a correct sentence itself. That was not the case here. – amadeusamadeus May 7 at 14:40

"Vorglühen" literally means "pre-glow" or "pre-ignite". The term describes the pre-heating phase when cold-starting old diesel engines.

In your context it's a slang term for the practice of drinking/sharing store-bought alcoholic beverages at home before going to a bar or club, where alcohol is much more expensive (hence "predrink"). "Pregame" would be a similar american slang term:

Wollen wir bei mir vorglühen? - Should we pregame at my place?

  • 5
    I think modern diesel engines still do that (but they hide it better, like starting when opening the door or inserting key) – lalala May 7 at 16:05
  • When I saw the question on the HNQ my first reaction was that the speaker invited everybody to a round of mulled wine (Glühwein) at his place before the office (pre-)Xmas get-together. This answer makes more sense! – Jyrki Lahtonen May 8 at 7:08
  • Also equivalent to "pre-load" in British English slang – AdamV May 8 at 18:38

To my knowledge "vorglühen" finds its origin in the tourist culture in German speaking areas of the Alps. It is the result of cross breading a German drink with a Scandinavian habit. The drink is called "Glühwein", which is a very common alcoholic beverage served hot. Being also somewhat of a street food drink, it is often the first available drink after skiing. As a typical touristic expression "vorglühen" mixes its source with a common habit in Scandinavian countries, presenting dominant cultures in Alpine tourism. Alcoholic beverages in these countries are comparatively expensive, particularly in bars an clubs. Over time this has forced primarily young people to resort to drinking themselves into sometimes quite somewhat of a rush, before visiting catering establishments in which these drinks are easily five to ten times more expensive.

As this habit does not go unnoticed by its surroundings, it acquired reputation in German speaking countries by the name of "vorglühen". It is not a typical German habit and is generally frowned upon by Germans. The prices of alcoholic beverages in German catering being quite inviting, the Germans simply fail to see the point.

The connection to the process of "vorglühen" as in preheating a Diesel engine, which is literally called "vorglühen" is a seemingly more obvious, nevertheless entirely speculative example of having heard the bell ring, but not knowing where the hammer is hanging.

The expression is also used for more moderate forms of getting warmed up with alcohol.

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    It is by no means generally frowned upon by Germans. It is mostly done by young people who want to get drunk without paying to get drunk in a bar, which is considerably more expensive. I‘d say, ‚pregaming‘ is the perfect translation, also with the same social context, as the same Social groups pregame, as they do vorglühen. By the way, an even more proletarian word in German would be „vorsaufen“ – Toto May 7 at 12:36
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    This does not in any way correspond to the word usage as I know it in Vienna. – Sebastian Redl May 7 at 13:46
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    I live in a region of Germany which is as far away from the Alps as it gets. This term was used a lot in my youth, and generally not with a negative connotation. I think the only people who would consider it negatively would be bar owners :) – Philipp May 7 at 15:16
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    @Berend When you are not certain of the origins of the term, then you should not post an answer stating that your origin story as a matter of fact. – Philipp May 7 at 16:23
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    @Berend no, it is used as vorglühen (here in the west of Germany at least) is; young people who want to be drunk before going to a party, often in order to safe money – Toto May 7 at 17:55

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