Yesterday I encountered a sign that read:

Unbedingt Hygienebeutel benutzen

I was struck by the economy of words, nothing wasted in this discussion of what to do with your waste. My sense is that in the US we would be likely to say something much more like “Don’t flush sanitary products, please put them in this container” which, in addition to having many more words, also feels significantly less direct.

The word unbedingt is one which I first encountered on another sign; there it was used to leave people in no doubt that dogs must be on leashes/leads. Various sources render its meaning as “absolute(ly),” “unconditional(ly),” “imperative(ly),” “obligator(il)y,” categorical(ly)” and “without fail.” In other words, it’s strong stuff. With these meanings, and given it appears on signage, it also feels that little bit formal to me. It would seem that this intuition is perhaps incorrect, though, as DWDS.de lists some lovely synonyms in umgangssprachlich (ugs.) or colloquial usage and their translations into English are also quite colloquial:

allemal – “every time”
hundert Pro – “sure as the sun rises” or literally “one hundred per[cent]”
ey Alter, ich schwör – “Hey dude, I swear”
todsicher – “dead sure; a dead cert”
auf Gedeih und Verderb – “completely and utterly; for better or for worse” or more literally something like “spanning success and decay”

DWDS also includes the expression ganz und gar – “utterly and completely” – a combination I’d wondered about given the ability in German to verstärken almost everything, including superlatives. What, is that ganz genau, I hear you say?!


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