Phrase of the day: Aufs Glatteis führen

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Phrase of the day: Aufs Glatteis führen

With snow and icy weather conditions setting in across Germany and Austria, you might be hearing a lot about “Glatteis” this week, but how can you use this phrase?


What does it mean?

“Aufs Glatteis führen” is an idiomatic phrase which literally translates as “leading someone onto black ice”. Metaphorically, this means hoodwinking someone, giving them a false idea of how a situation will turn out, or generally guiding them into a situation which will make their life more difficult.

Equivalents in English would be to “lead someone up the garden path”, “leading someone a merry dance” or simply catching someone out.

What is Glatteis?

Glatteis itself is black ice, which is why you might see this word on warning signs during cold weather. In German, it literally means “smooth ice” because of the slick and slippery way it clings to roads and pavements in sheets. 

In fact, phrases like “Vorsicht, glatte Straßen” (Careful, icy streets) are common. (Even though this literally means “smooth streets”! 


How can I use this metaphor?

“Lassen Sie sich nicht aufs Glatteis führen” / (Don’t let yourself be played for a fool.)

“Der Verkäufer hat die Kunden aufs Glatteis geführt” / (The salesman led the customers up the garden path.)

“Die Frage nach der Herkunft des Gerichts führt den Kellner aufs Glatteis” / (The waiter was caught out by the question about the origin of the dish.)


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