As of June 30, 2018, live e-Tutoring has been discontinued.
Please click here for more information.

May Idiom: "Jemanden ein X für ein U vormachen"

edited May 12 in German
Hallo Leute,

May is here and so is our new idiom for the month. 
It is "jemandem ein X für ein U vormachen" which means as much as scamming someone to believe something is an X instead of a U. In English, one would probably say "to put the wool over somebody's eyes" or to "lead somebody up the garden path". 
If you are a victim of fraud, somebody probably sold you something for an X instead of a U or some land in Florida..... Well, you get the idea.

Examples:

"Ulrike hat einem Fremden ihr Schrottauto verkauft. Sie hat ihm ein X für ein U vorgemacht und ihm nichts davon erzählt, dass der Wagen eine neuen Motor braucht."
"Ulrike sold a stranger her trashy car. She led him up the garden path by not telling him that it needs a new engine." 

"Wir haben ihm ein X für ein U vorgemacht. Wir haben ihm so viele tolle Geschichten über unser Haus erzählt, aber natürlich ist das Ding eine Todesfalle."
"We have pulled the wool over his eyes. We told him so may great stories about our house but of course it is really a death trap."

Origin:

This idiom is, of course, based on Roman letters. You may recall that an X means ten, a V means 5. Well, it turns out that tradesman, merchants and innkeepers were never the most honest people in the Middle Ages.
You may notice that the letter V can be easily changed into an X. So many people apparently ordered something thinking it cost V, only to discover that the innkeeper had changed the price to an X in a matter of minutes. This sort of thing must have been so common that a saying developed.
Why do I keep talking about a V instead of a U in the idiom?
The answer is simple. A U and a V were written the exact same way by the Romans and there you have it. 
This is the truth, folks, unless I just gave you an X instead of a U.

Best,
Anja
Register or Sign In to comment.