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:
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What’s with…? / Was ist mit…?

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

What’s with…?
Was ist mit…?

This phrase is complicated to deal with because it has two meanings in both American English (AmE) and German, as illustrated in the table below. Both of the AmE examples are taken from the Dictionary of American Slang,1 which dates what’s with…? to the ‘late 1930s+’ and attributes it to the Yiddish phrase vos iz mit…? The German examples in the table are my own, as are their English translations.

whats-with-table-screenshot-paint3

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Come on already! / Komm schon!

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

Come on already!
Komm schon!

In English, already is used to express something that happened before now or earlier than expected. In German, schon is used the same way – as an adverb. But it can also be used as a modal particle, adding various shades of meaning to a sentence depending on the context and speaker’s attitude. In the German example above, schon adds emphasis to a command, suggesting impatience on the part of the speaker. The fact that American English can use already in exactly the same way is usually attributed to the influence of the Yiddish word shoyn (see here, here, and here) rather than that of German schon (see here), although the principle is the same, Yiddish being closely related to German.

British English, on the other hand, has to rely on intonation (‘Come ON!’) or question tags (‘Come on, will you?!’) etc. to convey a similar sense of urgency.

Germanisms in American English

Abbreviations: AmE = American English; BrE = British English

Being a Brit married to an American and living in Germany puts me in a good position to compare British and American English with German. And over the years I’ve been struck by the number of American English expressions that have close equivalents in German, but are not typically associated with British English. For example:

AmE:        Can I get a coffee?
German:  Ich bekomme einen Kaffee (bekommen = to get)

In British English it’s more traditional to order a coffee (or other food and drink) using phrases like can I have…? or I’ll have. Admittedly, can I get…? now seems well established in BrE, too, but I can remember a time when that usage was only familiar from American TV and films. The same applies to some of the other expressions on my list below.
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