Saturday, 23 January 2016


Translating ‘die Seele baumeln lassen’ into English

Today’s short blogpost is about how to deal with the idiom: Lassen Sie Ihre Seele baumeln!* - an exhortation used very frequently in holiday/leisure/wellness texts. For any non-German speakers who happen to be reading this, Seele is your soul and the verb baumeln means to dangle, so you can see the potential pitfalls! Clearly “letting your soul dangle” is only ever going to cause hilarity among an English-speaking readership (though this otherwise perfectly nice hotel in Davos seem to be blissfully unaware of the fact: http://www.hotelkongress.ch/en/25/default.aspx?idPackage=19).

So, what does it actually mean? Duden gives the following definition: sich psychisch entspannen; von allem, was einen psychisch belastet, Abstand gewinnen: to relax mentally; to avoid mental stress of any kind. In other words... relax! But then German has other words for to relax, notably  entspannen (and, increasingly common these days, relaxen), so what’s the difference?

Well, I guess die Seele baumeln lassen is really just relaxation... with knobs on! Proper kick-off-your-shoes, turn-down-the-lights, light-a-scented-candle, do-not-disturb kind of relaxation – the kind we should all get more of! Actually, for translation purposes, relax (or for extra effect relax and unwind) will usually do the job nicely. But of course there are other options if you feel like ringing the changes: let yourself go, free your spirit (bit hippie, that one!), leave your cares behind, indulge yourself, chill out etc. (or if you are American, I guess you are more likely to ‘hang loose’, ‘kick back’ or something?!). Here are just a few examples from recently-translated texts:

  • suchen Sie eine der Restaurationen auf und beim Blick aufs Wasser einfach die Seele baumeln lassen = relax and enjoy a bite to eat as you sit and take in the stunning view across the water
  • Ruhe geniessen, die Seele baumeln lassen = immerse yourself in the wonderful peace and quiet and forget your cares
  • Wellness – die Seele baumeln lassen = spa luxury – your chance to really unwind

 
To close, here’s a website I just came across – the rather aptly-named: www.seelenbaumeln.ch. It’s a health clinic offering massage and a range of soothing therapeutic treatments. Don’t worry if you don’t happen to live near St Gallen, I’m sure there’s somewhere closer to home where you can dangle your soul to your heart’s content. Happy relaxing!

 
*For anyone interested in the origin of the phrase, it is generally acknowledged to come from Kurt Tucholsky’s 1931 novel Schloss Gripsholm: “Wir lagen auf der Wiese und baumelten mit der Seele”.

 

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