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Where would the phrase "Ach, du lieber Himmel!" have been most likely to have originated or become popular prior to WW2?

It is something my German grandmother was known to say a lot when she was frustrated with someone, and I am wondering if this might give me more information about where she was from.

Supposedly, she is from Bavaria, and was born in Regensburg, but the city does not have a record of her birth.

Would this phrase, at the very least, be in alignment with the information that she was Bavarian?

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    I could imagine that this phrase was already in use in all parts of Germany long before WW2, but I don't have any sources at hand.
    – RHa
    Oct 20, 2021 at 21:38
  • Do you think it was more specific to Germany, or would they have been saying it in Austria, for example, as well? Oct 20, 2021 at 21:53

2 Answers 2

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I think it is a commonly used phrase in all parts of Germany. Older examples can be found here.

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    If anything, it might have been slightly more common in more religious, catholic regions. That includes Bavaria and Austria.
    – Roland
    Oct 21, 2021 at 8:29
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I decided to use the resources of the Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (DWDS), specifically the linked literature corpus, to search for the phrase du lieber Himmel in pre-1945 publications.

Here is a link to the results, assuming a direct link is possible.

Among the results and merely checking the authors, I find

  • Franz Rehbeim from Neustettin (now Poland, then eastern Pommerania)
  • Ludwig Ganghofer from Kaufbeuren in (Bavarian) Swabia
  • Kurt Tucholsky born in Berlin
  • Felix von Luckner from Dresden in Saxony
  • Franz Kafka from Prague
  • Josef Winckler from near Rheine; the northwest where the current border of Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Westfalia is
  • John Knittel, born in India to a Swabian and a South Tyrolean parent and who held Swiss nationality
  • Eduard Rhein from Königswinter in the Rhineland
  • Anna Seghers from Mainz

With such a list spanning a large circle around the entirety of the German-speaking area, I would deem it rather safe to say that the phrase was commonly used across all of Germany, German-speaking Switzerland and what was Austria prior to World War I, not allowing you to draw any conclusion to confirm or deny your grandmother’s origin.

Note that I did not cherry-pick the different locations and that I observed no clustering anywhere. At best, one might point to a lack of central Germany (Franconia, Hessia, Thuringia) in the list but I suspect that to be inadequacy of the corpus rather than that area not using the phrase.

Even nowadays, I would consider the phrase to be sufficiently common across the entire German-speaking area to not allow geographic conclusions.

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