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I found this sentence among the subtitles to a dubbed movie on DasErste TV:

Dahin muss ich auch langsam mal zurück.

The "auch langsam mal" did not convey a meaning to me, so I looked in DWDS and found many examples of its use:

Wir sollten mit den Entschuldigungen langsam mal aufhören.

Du musst langsam mal lernen, deine Dinge zu regeln.

Es wurde ja auch langsam mal Zeit, dass endlich einer...

Hör langsam mal auf, Janet. -

The two-word phrase seems to act like a particle, but I cannot find it documented as such. What is its meaning and usage? Is auch associated or does it have an independent meaning?

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2 Answers 2

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Langsam mal and in general the particle mal are just a way to "soften" the impact of a phrase for the sake of politeness. Ich muss langsam mal los is similar to saying "I should get going" instead of "I will leave now" or "I should go now".

Without langsam mal, the sentences feel just a bit more imperative/impatient (the following are not literal translations, but attempts to reflect the tone they evoke when I read them):

(without lansam mal / with langsam mal)

  1. We should stop making excuses / it is about time we stop making excuses.
  2. You should keep your *** together / You should start to learn to keep your *** together.
  3. It was bloody time for... / It was about time that...
  4. Stop, Janet / Please stop, Janet

I don't think the second option is less impatient, but it shows an attempt to remain polite.

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All sentences work without it nearly identically. the "langsam mal" adds a gist along the lines of "it is about time".

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  • I've also heard "so langsam" - is there any difference in meaning between that and "langsam mal" or, indeed, just plain "langsam"?
    – cruthers
    Jul 15, 2022 at 17:04

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