From your lips to God’s ears / Dein Wort in Gottes Ohr

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

From your [lips/mouth] to God’s [ear/s]
Dein Wort in Gottes Ohr (Your word in God’s ear)

This phrase expresses the hope that God will hear what someone has just said (something optimistic about the future) and grant that it may come true. A non-religious equivalent in English might be ‘Let’s hope you’re right!’ Language Log provides the following example of the American English (AmE) version:

»  I told him I thought [the movie Goldeneye] would take $30 million in its opening weekend, to which he replied: ‘From your lips to God’s ears.’ Evening Standard     (London) (4 October 1995.)* «

According to Language Log the expression may stem from Jewish religious texts and probably entered English via Yiddish. The same  post provides some original Yiddish examples, one attributed to Ben Sadock:

»  Fun dayn moyl in gots oyern.  ‘From your mouth to God’s ears’  «

and the other attributed to Lillian Merwin Feinsilver in The Taste of Yiddish (1970):1

»  Fun zayn moyl, in Gots oyer.  ‘From his mouth into God’s ear’.  «

The Jewish English Lexicon classifies this phrase and its variants (sometimes mouth instead of lips, sometimes plural ears, sometimes singular ear) as being used in ‘North America’. This ties in with my own experience: I have once heard the phrase used by a (non-Jewish) American, but never by anyone from the UK.

The equivalent expression in standard German is, according to Redensarten-Index:

»  Dein Wort in Gottes Ohr!  «  (Your word in God’s ear),

which mentions neither lips nor mouth. However, the same source cites an older variant from Wander’s Sprichwörter-Lexikon of 1867–1880, which is closer to the Yiddish/AmE wording:

»  Aus deinem Munde in Gottes Ohr!  «  (From your mouth to God’s ear).2

Note that the publication date of Wander’s dictionary coincides with a period when German-speaking migrants were arriving en masse in the USA; so one could speculate that the German phrase consolidated the influence of its Yiddish counterpart on AmE.


1 Cited in: Nigel Rees, Cassell’s Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins (2002), p. 90.
2 See under section: Ergänzungen.

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