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German phrase of the day: Fix und fertig

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Ana Dilley - [email protected]
German phrase of the day: Fix und fertig
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Long day at the office? Arrived three hours late thanks to train delays? The German language has a perfect way to describe this utter exhaustion.

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Why do I need to know 'fix und fertig'?

Because this widely used phase is a great way to sum up how you're feeling at the end of a long day or after doing something really hard.

What does it mean?

A common German language expression, ‘fix und fertig’ is a particularly emphatic way to tell someone you are feeling exhausted or burnt out. You might use it when you come home at the end of a particularly arduous shift at work, after a killer workout at the gym or following a stressful event like moving house.

It can also be used in a similar way to the English phrase, ‘I'm at the end of one’s tether/rope', which usually applies when something is frustrating or annoying you such as a complicated bureaucratic task (which is very common in Austria). 

In literal terms, ‘fix’ literally means either ‘fixed,’ or ‘quick', while ‘fertig’ is translated as finished but can be used in a variety of settings. For example, ‘fertig sein’ can also mean that you are fed up with something or done with it. 

With the emphatic 'fix' at the start, though, it's worth pointing out that 'fix und fertig' denotes a stronger type of exhaustion than 'fertig sein' does.

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A more colloquial way of expressing the same thing would be ‘Ich bin fix und alle' - with 'alle' meaning empty - but 'fix und fertig' is far more commonly used.

Where does it come from?

This saying has been around for over 200 years, if not longer.

Fix und fertig’ appears in Goethe’s letters to Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, the 18th century German philosopher and literary figure with whom Goethe was connected. It is supposed that it was a part of the vernacular long before this, but a lack of written records means there is no fixed date assigned to earlier usage.

If you want to sound yet more culturally and linguistically adept amongst your German friends, a joking variation of the saying is ‘ich bin Fix und Foxi.’

This echoes the popular German comic book of the same name, which concerns the adventures of two foxes, named ‘Fix’ and ‘Foxi’ and ran uninterrupted between 1953 and 1994. Germans picked up on the similarity between the titular characters' names and the common phrase which has lead to their interchangeable use.

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Use it like this:

Nach zwölf Stunden Arbeit am Stück bin ich einfach fix und fertig!

After 12 hours of work without a break I am simply exhausted!

Weil sie dieses Wochenende soviel gemacht hat, hat sie sich selbst fix und fertig gemacht.

Because she did so much this weekend, she has burnt herself out.

Ach, du siehst total Fix und Foxi aus!

Ahh, you look completely whacked! (More jokey because of the reference to the comic book characters)

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