JANUARY IDIOM: Um den heissen Brei herumreden
It is time for our German idiom of the month:
"Um den heissen Brei herumreden"
The literal translation is "To talk around the hot mash" but it basically means "to beat around the bush" or "to pussyfoot around."
Examples would be "Rede nicht um den heissen Brei herum, komm endlich zur Sache!" (Do not beat around the bush, get to the point". Or "Wie immer redete der Politiker nur um den heissen Brei herum." (As always, the politician just used meaningless phrases.)
This is a very popular phrase for Germans as they tend to be culturally blunt and direct to a degree that tends to be very uncomfortable for the average person coming from an Anglo-Saxon culture. The idiom expresses a desire to speak plainly and directly, without mysteries or riddles and without the attempt to hide the most important aspect of an issue. It is also used to encourage people to call a spade a spade and to get to the heart of a given matter instead of wasting time with polite, empty pleasantries.
This idioms originates with another idiom of almost the same wording. "Wie die Katze um den heissen Brei". "He is like a cat around the hot mash"
The idea here is that cats do not like hot food. When presented with a hot dish, a cat will go this way, then the other and will try to eat the food from the edges where it is coldest. Hence, it was used to refer to somebody who is scared, hesitant or careful which then morphed into the broader idiom about somebody who is hesitant to broach an issue or discuss it directly.
Both idioms are colloquial and old. Martin Luther is said to have used it.
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