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What Means "Unter Aller Kanone" · 2005-08-30

Advanced german learners may have come across this idiom. Something is "unter aller Kanone". The meaning would be, something is below merest standards. The word by word translation is something like: Something is "below all guns". The origins of this idiom is not common knowledge. Not even among Germans. So, where does "unter aller Kanone" come from? Actually it comes from a latin term, which was used in german educational institutions to indicate that a student's achievement was actually below all standards. The latin term is "Sub omni canone", which translates somehow to: 'Below all Rules' and would mean 'Not worth to even give a mark'. Now in german 'Canone' and 'Kanone' sound identical, while 'Kanone' means gun or cannon. The translation of "Sub omni canone" into german while keeping the word 'Canone' leads to "unter aller Kanone", hence 'Below all guns'.

"Unter aller Kanone" is an idiom, that is widely understood all over germany, so use it. For example, you could refer to the service quality in a restaurant as 'below all guns'. That sounds funny and if you ad the etymology, the waiter will consider you "gebildet".


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