Proverb – German

German:                                              Translation:

“Rast ich, so rost ich”                         “When I rest, I rust”

I hear my grandmother say this phrase very often. I also notice that it is used by many germans that are similar to her in age, or mainly aged 60 and above. From my personal observation, the word choice and language is not very current, that is, it does would not speak to the contemporary or younger generation. The fact that it does not resemble colloquial or conversational German makes it sound more like a proverb. As far as the meaning of the phrase, it is a motivational proverb, which people would tell themselves in order to avoid becoming lazy. Resting too much, or not working hard enough, will make you rust faster. That could be a reference to aging or simple physical or mental deterioration from lack of stimulation. The context which my informant, a retired housewife, uses it in is when she talks about how she keeps herself young, being a retired widow who lives alone. The phrase usually involves the description of activities, such as housework, groceries, as well as recreational activities like cycling, which my information does to keep herself occupied and thus prevent from “rusting”. One observation I consider important is not only that young people do not use this proverb but also that the proverb itself makes no reference to resting “too much” or some form of excess. It simply states, “when I rest, I rust”, and thus I would like to suggest that it may have been coined during the Second World War, after which Germany went through a period of hard work to build the country’s economy; where rest was simply not an option. Unfortunately, my informant, who experienced the Second World War, knew this phrase as an adolescent but is unsure as to whether or not it was taught by her parents. Thus, the “terminus post quem” of this proverb might be the Second world war to my grandmother, but not necessarily to another German citizen or German speaker. Also the informant grew up speaking a German dialect, as a result of her growing up close to the Dutch/German Border. This proverb however is clearly “hoch-Deutsch” or “high-German” which is considered the correct German. The informant at age 18, moved to the city of Hamburg and learned to speak proper, non-dialect German, which I presume is where she would have learned this phrase.