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October idiom: Den Teufel nicht an die Wand malen

Our October idiom is “Den Teufel nicht an die Wand malen“, which literally translates to „Don’t draw the devil on the wall“.

This idiom has a lot to do with the superstition that if you constantly anticipate the dark and evil things that can happen to you in life, they will, as a result, somehow happen. By the act of focusing on bad things, you will bring them upon you, so it is prudent not to talk about the worst-case scenarios you are facing all the time. In fact, it is easy to see how a bad attitude and a bad outlook on life can bring bad outcomes and bad results to you, so the saying may have substantial wisdom behind it.

The phrase does not have a direct translation. In English, you would probably express the sentiment in the following way “Don’t worry, be happy” or “don’t jinx it” or “Be optimistic. Don’t focus on what may happen” or simply “Don’t be so negative”, but none of this sufficiently translates the phrase.

Origin:

An old superstition in Germany says that if you speak the
name of the devil he will come so calling the devil by name was forbidden.
People believed that certain things attracted the devil and others repelled
him. There was a saying “you do not need to paint the devil above the door, he
will come in by himself”. Our idiom is based on that saying.

An idiom with a similar meaning is “Nichts wird so heiß gegessen, wie es gekocht wird.“ Nothing gets eaten when it is as hot as when it was cooked“, meaning things always cool down, you think things are going to be really bad right now but it is not going to be that bad at the end.

Example 1:

Eric: “Ich bin sicher, ich werde meinen Mathe-Test nicht
bestehen“.
 

Peter: “Mal doch nicht den Teufel an die Wand! Ich weiß,
dass du den ganzen Monat dafür gebüffelt hast“.

Eric:

“I’m certain I’m going to fail my math test.”  

Peter:

“Don’t be so pessimistic. I know you studied for it all
month.”

Example 2:

“Mal doch nicht den Teufel an die Wand. So schlimm wird es
nicht werden.“

„Don’t be so negative. It won’t be that bad“.

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