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German phrase of the day: keine Alleingänge

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has regularly used this phrase over the last several months to justify Germany’s long decision-making process on sending Ukraine modern tanks.

German phrase of the day: keine Alleingänge
Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

What does it mean?

Alleingang literally translates as “a solo effort.” Alleingänge, is its plural. The phrase keine Alleingänge, literally means “no solo efforts,” but it’s probably better understood as “no going it alone.” It’s become one of the most recognisable phrases in Germany’s political debate about how to support Ukraine in defending itself against Russia’s invasion.

How do you use it or where might you see it?

You’re reasonably likely to have seen or heard keine Alleingänge over the last few months in newspapers and on German news programs and political talk shows.

In a September 2022 interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, Scholz justified Germany’s reluctance to send heavy weapons – such as modern battle tanks – to Ukraine by saying: “wir werden bei allem, was wir tun, keine Alleingänge machen,” or “We won’t go it alone in anything we do.”

By saying this, Scholz was insinuating that Germany would only send tanks when other countries – particularly the United States – would send tanks.

PODCAST: How Germany changed its mind on tanks and why people are waiting years for citizenship

German chancellor Olaf Scholz at a special meeting at the Bundestag.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz at a special meeting at the Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Ever since then, keine Alleingänge has become a politically charged phrase that’s come to represent an often tense German debate – so much that using it in many conversations with average Germans might leave some of them asking you your opinion of Olaf Scholz.

After months of no decision on tanks, Germany finally agreed this week to send them to Ukraine once the US sent some as well. Scholz supporters might argue that keine Alleingänge was successful in getting Ukraine more powerful weaponry – by making sure many countries were involved.

Scholz detractors might be more likely to use keine Alleingänge in a sceptical or outright mocking tone, arguing the phrase symbolises Scholz’s indecisiveness – or even cowardice – in crisis.

READ ALSO: Ditherer or deal-maker? Jury’s out on Scholz’s tank brinkmanship

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For members


German word of the day: Wonneproppen

If you or a friend has recently welcomed a tiny new addition to the family, this is a German word you'll want to know.

German word of the day: Wonneproppen

Why do I need to know Wonneproppen?

Because this adorable little word is a need-to-know when talking about young babies, and also has an interesting literal translation.  

What does it mean? 

Der Wonneproppen (pronounced like this) is a lighthearted term of endearment that’s usually used to described cute, chubby, chuckling little babies. It can be well translated in English as “bundle of joy”, though it also has a jokey association with being a little tubby, or having baby fat.

In literal terms, it’s a combination of the noun ‘die Wonne’, meaning joy or happiness, and a colloquial pronunciation of ‘der Propfen’, which means something like a bottle-stop or cork. So a giggling little baby is rather sweetly described as a cork of happiness due to its infectious joy and its short, round physique. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Leseratte

As a German learner, you’re likely to have learned ‘die Freude’ as the best translation of ‘joy’ in German. However, die Wonne can also be used when you’re looking for a slightly more elegant or formal way to describe overwhelming bliss or happiness. In other words, the type of joy new parents are likely to feel when their newborn arrives in the world. 

Use it like this: 

Was für ein Wonneproppen der Kleine ist!

What a bundle of joy this little one is!

Mein Mann passt auf den kleinen Wonneproppen heute Abend. 

My husband is watching the little bundle of joy tonight.