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The lyrics of "Schifoan" by Wolfgang Ambros include this snippet:

Am Freitog auf'd Nocht montier' i die Schi
Auf mei' Auto und dann begib' i mi
In's Stubaitoi oder noch Zöll am See
Weu, durt auf die Berg ob'm
Ham's immer an leiwand'n Schnee!

A standard German translation (from the Viennese dialect) given here says:

Am Freitagabend montier ich die Ski
Auf mein Auto und dann begebe ich mich
Ins Stubaital oder nach Zell am See,
Denn dort auf den Bergen oben
Gibt es immer einen supertollen Schnee!

I've always understood begeben to mean to leave for a destination or to waive a choice. What's a better translation of the line into English?

On Friday evening, I mount the skis on my car and then I must decide: to Stubaital or to Zell am See

or

On Friday evening, I mount the skis on my car and then I go to Stubaital or to Zell am See...

Or is there a another way to say it, which is better still?

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    @HubertSchölnast: I consider Austrian dialect as a legal shortening of one of the dialects spoken in Austria and the dialect might even vary between more remote districts of Vienna.
    – guidot
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 8:17
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    @guidot: So, you would say, that the songs performed by the Kölschrock band BAP are sung in German dialect? Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 8:30
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    @HubertSchölnast Well, of course Kölsch is German dialect.
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 15:16
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    @HubertSchölnast Das kann man al "pars pro toto" sehen, wie in "Das deutsche Auto kommt aus der Mode" - und nein, in Deutschland gibt es mehr als ein Auto.
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 18:30
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    @tofro: Da stand »from the Austrian dialect«. Und das, was da nach dem bestimmten Artikel stand, nämlich den österreichischen Dialekt gibt es ganz bestimmt nicht. An »from an Austrian dialect« hätte ich nichts auszusetzen gehabt, denn es ist richtig, dass Schifoan in einem österreichischen Dialekt geschrieben ist, aber es ist nicht in dem österreichischen Dialekt geschrieben, weil es den nun mal nicht gibt. Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 21:33

2 Answers 2

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"Sich an einen Ort begeben" means "to go somewhere", "to resort to a place".

DWDS calls the expression "papierdeutsch" ("paper German"), it's quite formal, and it's a probably intentionally out-of-place expression in that song.

Some examples that show the typical habitat of the expression:

Nach dem Essen begab sich die Gesellschaft in den Ballsaal. (After dinner, the company proceeded to the ballroom.)

Die Gräfin verabschiedete sich von ihren Gästen und begab sich in ihre Gemächer. (The Countess said goodbye to her guests and retired to her chambers.)

Bitte begeben Sie sich nach Ihrer Ankunft auf die Abflugebene zum Terminal B. (After your arrival, please proceed to the departure level to Terminal B.)

More examples with translations: Bitte begeben Sie sich ...; sich+begeben

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  • Right, it breaks with the style of the rest of the lyrics. I have always understood it as a bit self-ironic, given the proletarian habitus he is depicting. Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 7:51
  • I suspect, that for the meter two syllables were desired.
    – guidot
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 8:11
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sich begeben

The verb begeben, as used here, is a reflexive verb. This means, you always must use it with a reflexive pronoun:

Clara begibt sich in die Küche.
Clara moves/goes/runs/saunters/jumps/crawls/dances/... into the kitchen.

  • sich an einen Ort begeben = to move to a place

Sich begeben is a verb of movement like gehen (go, walk), laufen (run), schlendern (saunter), hüpfen (jump), kriechen (crawl), tanzen (dance), fahren (drive), reiten (ride), schwimmen (swimm), fliegen (fly) and many more. But sich begeben is still different. It describes a movement, but it does not describe the kind of movement. It just describes that you change your spatial position, but it leaves it completely open how this change is performed.

Sich begeben can mean that you walk, it can mean that you fly, it can mean that you use the bus, it can mean that you dig a tunnel and crawl through it. It can mean any kind of movement.

So, if you want to tell that you travel to the location X, but if you don't want to tell if you walk or drive or ride or what ever, then you can say

Ich begebe mich morgen nach Linz.
I'm off to Linz tomorrow.

And I disagree with HalvarF's claim that sich begeben is Papierdeutsch. At least in Austria it still is a productive verb. It is part of Austrian Standard German, and it is used in colloquial speech in Austria. But it is rare in dialects spoken in Austria, and this is what gives it the displaced character in Ambros's song. It is a little bit out-of-place in this song not because it is »Papierdeutsch« but because it is a non-dialect verb in a dialect context.

Here are examples of its usage:

Erzbischof Franz Lackner hat sich nach positiver Testung zweier Personen in seinem Umfeld in Selbstisolation begeben
meinbezirk.at 2021-11-22 Austrian newspaper (each political district has it's own issue of meinbezirk, so it's a local newspaper)

Startrainer Pep Guardiola vom englischen Fußballmeister Manchester City hat sich nach einem positiven Corona-Test in Isolation begeben.
DiePresse.at 2022-01-06 Austrian newspaper, published in Vienna, for all of Austria

Spendenaffäre: "Mayr hat sich auf Glatteis begeben"
kurier.at 2017-12-22 Austrian newspaper, similar status as DiePresse

Hat sich schon in Startposition begeben
meinbezirk.at 2019-02-07

Die Autoindustrie hat sich in eine gefährliche Abhängigkeit begeben
sueddeutsche.de 2021-12-15 high quality national German newspaper, published in Munich(Bavaria)

Wie sich Jugendliche via Smartphone auf Identitätssuche begeben
DiePresse.at 2018-07-20

Begeben Sie sich auf die Pirsch durch die Wälder des Naturparks
tierpark.at (no date) Website of an Austrian adventure park and zoo

ichkoche.at hat sich unter die Experimental-Köche begeben
ichkoche.at (no date) Austrian cooking site

Forscher begeben sich auf einen Streifzug durch die Geistesgeschichte
DerStandard.at 2017-07-15 Austrian newspaper, similar status as DiePresse and Kurier

Eine dreiköpfige Familie hat sich im Harz auf den Brocken begeben.
RND.de 2022-02-12 German editorial network (Hannover, Berlin)

As you can see, from 10 sources that I found, 8 are from Austria, 1 from Bavaria and 1 from northern parts of Germany. This makes me believe, that »sich begeben« is mainly used in southern regions. If it is »Papierdeutsch« then only in northern parts of Germany.


etwas begeben

Note, that there is also a transitive version of begeben which has a very different meaning:

Nur juristische Personen können Anleihen begeben.
Only legal entities can issue bonds.

  • etwas begeben = to issue something
    the something are bonds, shares and similar financial products

Off topic:

Let me also add something to the Standard German translation of the Lyrics: A better translation into standard German would be:

... weu durt auf die Berg om hom's imma an leiwondn Schnee
... denn dort auf den Bergen oben haben sie immer einen tollen Schnee

Standard German »gibt es« (there is) would be »gibt's« in Viennese dialect. Ambros could have sung »gibt's« but he didn't. He sang »hom's« which is Standard German »haben sie« and English »they have«. This is a different meaning.

The English translation of this snippet is:

On Friday evening I mount the skis
on my car and then I go
to the Stubaital or to Zell am See.
Because up there on the mountains
they always have a great snow!

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  • I'm not really sure what DWDS means by their attribute "papierdeutsch", I don't think they mean to say that it isn't used any more. I agree with you that it is definely used, just not so much in oral language.
    – HalvarF
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 12:35
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    "Papier" like in "Monopoly" - Gehe in das Gefängnis. Begib Dich direkt dorthin. Gehe nicht über Los. Ziehe nicht DM 4000 ein
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 18:32
  • "Sich begeben" has one more meaning not related to moving somewhere. "Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit, dass ein Gebot von dem Kaiser Augustus ausging ... "
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 18:35

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