No Pig Was There

Slang: Kein schwein war da

Translation: No pig was there

Full Translation: There was no person there, no one was around or present at that point in time.

Context: This informant is a nineteen year old college student, attending school in the US. However, he lives abroad in a small town in Germany, where he has access to a wide range of German folklore. He also speaks German fluently, which offers him greater understanding of German culture as well.

Background: My informant heard this piece of folk speech used mainly within his village in Germany, but also at times in Frankfurt and other major metropolitan centers, albeit used less frequently. He likes it because it showcases an interesting motif common within German folk-speech, namely, the use of “pig” or pig related objects. To him, the phrase doesn’t necessarily have any significance emotionally, but is rather an important part of his speech – he confessed that he used it often while in Germany.

Analysis: On the surface, this piece of folk speech appears bland. It’s simply a slang term used to ‘spice up’ language. However, I was intrigued by the use of the word “pig” in place of the word person. Pigs were, and to some degree, continue to be a staple of German agricultural life. This piece of folk-speech seems to imply that, at one point, they were so integral to German life that they found their way into common speech. This seems to be backed up by the fact that, in more rural areas, this construct is more common, whilst it is less likely to be used when one is speaking German in more urbanized areas, separated from livestock.