leidlich gut / mehr schlecht als recht

Biff Burger

New Member
English - United States
Hi there!

I'm having a bit of a translation conundrum. I am trying to work on two phrases which appear to contradict one another. The context is an autobiographical account which takes place in post-war Germany, and the speaker is describing his humble economic condition.

The sentences are as follows: "Es ging uns leidlich gut. Mehr schlecht als recht beschafften wir uns alles Lebensnotwendige." The first statement seems to mean that the speaker was doing relatively well, while the second sentence indicates that he was only barely able to get his hands on the necessities of life. Does this strike anyone else as difficult to parse? Am I missing something?

  • perpend

    American English
    My understanding is that the first statement is a bit "punny". It's neutral, at best. Ich verstehe: Es ging uns relatativ/sozusagen "gut".
    In English, it would be punny to say: We were doing painfully well.

    (I hope you see the pun/sarcasm. Not sure.)


    Senior Member
    "Es ging uns leidlich gut." is rather common, I do not think it's "painfully well" (except this is an idiom meaning "fairly well").
    See also http://www.linguee.de/deutsch-englisch/uebersetzung/leidlich+gut.html
    "Mehr schlecht als recht" is an idiom. "nicht besonders gut; mangelhaft " http://www.redensarten-index.de/suche.php?suchbegriff=mehr schlecht als recht&bool=relevanz&suchspalte[]=rart_ou

    I'd say (as non-native English speaker)

    We were doing fairly/passably well. Rough-and-ready we got all we needed (for life)./We scraped around and got/to get all we needed.

    Contrary to perpend, I think "leidlich gut" is a "dead metaphor". I feel no sarcasm in this phrase "leidlich gut" without sarcastic context.

    I think there are better English translations but hope I could show the meaning.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    leidlich gut = fairly well / just acceptable /fair enough
    mehr schlecht als recht = it was difficult, but it worked out /

    I do not see any contradiction.

    Heutzutage ist "leidlich" veraltet und wird so gut wie nicht mehr verwendet.
    < Previous | Next >