trockener Patron

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by meleeri, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. meleeri Senior Member

    USA, English

    Was ist bitte ein "trockener Patron" auf English? (Denn Hofmenschen sind böse Leute und trockene Patrone und haben nichts anderes zu tun, als bei einem Ballpalast nach Feuersicherheit zu fragen.)

    I don't suppose it has anything to do with a boss, but it must be some kind of spoil-sport.

    Danke für die Hilfe!
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    It is from a Reportage by Joseph Roth. You might try "dry as dust" - I cannot think of anything more literal that makes sense in English. "Patron" is used here in sense of "customer".
  3. meleeri Senior Member

    USA, English
    Thanks! Sounds good to me.
  4. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Hi, "Patron" is almost dated now, the relict "trockener Patron" is used today sometimes, however.

    "Trocken" has the connotation "without any humor". I suppose this is the same with "dry as dust".

    Grimm defined it in his dictionary the word "Patron" more than hundert yeqars ago

    So it had the same meaning as "patron", "guardian", or "protector" in English. But this meaning was already lost in the given context.

    In German "er ist ein humorloser Geselle" is nowadays nearly synonymous to "er ist ein trockener Patron", because of change of meaning.
    That is why I agree to "customer" if it can be used in such sense.
    In German "Er ist ein trockener Kunde" would not work.

    They are humorless guys, dry as dust.
    "Patron" makes the style a little bit poetic and adds humor to the sentence in German (Augenzwinkern).

    I just saw: "Trockener Patron" is extremely rare in the Internet. I knew the idiom however, before. But it was long ago I read it the last time.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    I am happy to see that Hutschi and I agree about this one. In English we do say things like "a slippery customer", so I was wondering if we could get away with "dry customers". It is unusual, but would presumably be understood without too much difficulty, and might even be deemed witty.
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I would not use dry alone as an adjective unless the context showed clearly the meaning you intend.

    It has several contradictory meaning a dry person
    one who doesn't drink alcohol,
    someone who is thirsty
    someone who is characterised by saying funny/witty/ humorous things in a matter-of-fact manner.
    Someone who is characterised by showing no emotion, impassive; destitute of tender feeling; wanting in sympathy or cordiality; stiff, hard, cold.
    Someone who is characterised by being frigidly precise.

    Use dry-as-dust as an adjective.
  7. exgerman Senior Member

    English but my first language was German
    Or humorless customers if your sentence doesn't work with dry-as-dust as an adjective.

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