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I remember hearing this expression "Bist du los?", but I don't really remember the context.

In my mind, the meaning was something like "Are you crazy?" with the hand-waving in front of the face, but again, I cannot provide a context. I've tried looking for it on the internet but couldn't find anything, and my understanding of German is pretty limited. It is possible I heard it wrong. Does anyone know whether it exists, and, if it does, what's it's meaning?

As additional information, I might have heard it from my late grandmother, so it could be part of a dialect. She was a native speaker who emigrated from Germany as a young teen. She grew up in Lower Saxony, specifically in the city of Vechta.

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    More likely, she asked "Was ist los?" oder "Was ist mit dir los?" ("what's going on (with you)). Sep 15 at 3:03
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    From Generation Z it could be "Bist du lost?", with the English lost meaning clueless, but definitely not from your grandmother
    – HalvarF
    Sep 15 at 6:17
  • Perhaps you have misheard something? Could it be another expression that sounds similiar? Something like "Bist do doof?", perhaps? And, as Alex has already mentioned, there exists "Geht's los?" or "Ich glaub' es geht los" if you want to say that someone is crazy.
    – sisee
    Sep 16 at 9:19
  • Maybe it's a short form of "Bist du lose?" which I've never heard but it could be a regional variant of "Hast du 'ne Schraube locker?" which is the same idiom as in English.
    – YetiCGN
    Sep 16 at 12:09
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In general, "Bist du los?" means "Have you departed?", as it is a shortened way of saying "Bist du losgegangen?"

This shortening appears in many related forms:

  • Bist du los?
  • Wir sind schon los.
  • Ich muss los.
  • Sie ist schon los.

None of these expressions can be used with the meaning "Are you crazy?", and I cannot think of anything similar that could.

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    Just as a side note: While the other three related examples are quite common, I would expect the sentence in question to contain the word "schon", too: "Bist du schon los?" Sep 15 at 12:15
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    @rexkogitans: I, on the other hand, would be perfectly happy with "Bist du los?" without "schon" – in fact, I'm pretty sure that I actually say that. I'd only use "schon" if I was hoping to hear that the addressee hasn't actually departed yet (e.g. because I want them to bring something from home). If I was hoping that they'd arrive soon, I'd almost certainly use "Bist du los?".
    – Schmuddi
    Sep 15 at 13:10
  • @Schmuddi Another usage of "Bist du schon los?" might be if you expect the addressee to be late, and inquire whether they already departed or still haven't - but you hope they did.
    – Bergi
    Sep 15 at 18:54
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    More examples: "Wann bist du los?" "Können wir dann los?"
    – Bergi
    Sep 15 at 18:55
  • Welche dieser Übersetzungen soll zu dem Hinweis passen, dass es im Sinne von "Are you crazy?" gebraucht wurde? Und wie, wenn nicht vermittelt über ein Funktelefon, könnte man jemanden fragen "Bist Du schon los?" Das kann natürlich auch eine Großmutter benutzt haben oder benutzen, aber die Gelegenheiten so etwas zu fragen sind doch spärlich. Sep 15 at 22:09
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Just to prevent a wrong impression from forming: "Bist du los?" definitely does not mean anything like "Are you crazy?" and I'm not aware of any slang present or past in which it does or did.

There are idioms that are related semantically, like "Hast du ne Schraube locker?" ("Is there a loose screw on you?") or "Was ist denn mit dir los?" ("What's up with you?",) meaning something like "Are you crazy?", but I can't think of anything that sounds like "Bist du los?"

O. R. Mapper explained what it does mean, and my guess would be that the sentence was maybe just misheard or mis-remembered in some small way, maybe even by the grandmother when she was saying it.

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  • Is this a comment to O.R.Mapper? Sep 15 at 22:11
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    @userunknown: No, it just became kind of obsolete when O.R.Mapper added this point to her or his answer.
    – HalvarF
    Sep 16 at 15:14
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I never heard the expression mean quite that, but in the context you describe, the meaning of "los" could have been similar to "unhinged".

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Maybe you heard Geht's los?, or Geht es jetzt los mit dir? ("Is it starting (with you now)?", referring to Insanity) which indeed has a (rather funny) meaning like are you crazy.

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i guess what he actually said is "Bist du lost?" This means "Are you lost" and "lost" often means something like stupid/retarded. It comes from the english word lost but changed its meaning a little while german teenagers started saying "(are you) lost" if someone wasnt understanding something or was doing something the wrong way or doing something straight up stupid.

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    Do you really think the asker’s late grandmother, emigrated in her teens used today’s German youth slang? The asker clearly refers to remembering the phrase, indicating past experiences.
    – Stephie
    Sep 16 at 8:42

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