Vienna, like Berlin, is noted for the funny slogans on its trash cans. As a public service, and to enhance your visit to Vienna, I will attempt to explain a dozen of these slogans here in this post.
Let me start with the hardest one, 48er Blech. This is the only one that mystified me when I first saw it (and I would be interested to learn how many German visitors fail to understand it at first glance).
Blech is a German word for a sheet of metal, often tin, the metal that cars and tin cans used to be made of. But what about “48er”? As an American I first thought of the 49ers, the masses of people who went to California in 1849 to search for gold. (To this day there is a football team called the 49ers in San Francisco.) So I thought “48er” might have something to do with the year 1848 or 1948, but I couldn’t imagine what.
Then I thought it might be the thickness of a sheet of metal (48 millimeters?) but that didn’t seem to make much sense, either.
Well, it turns out that the “48ers” in Vienna are the garbage collectors (‘dustmen’ in the UK), because they work for a city bureau called Magistratsamt 48 or MA 48 for short. (They even have a Facebook page called Die 48er = ‘The 48ers’.)
But why 48er Blech? Because their trash cans are made of metal?
Yes, but this is actually meant to echo another local Viennese expression, 16er Blech, which refers to a kind of beer that comes in tin cans and is brewed in the 16th district of Vienna by the Ottakringer Brauerei, the only large brewery that is still operating within the city limits.
By the way, most of these trash cans have two more slogans in the orange strip near the top of the can. Du hast es in der Hand means literally ‘You have it in your hand’ meaning a piece of trash that you should put in the bin, But this is also a commonly used expression meaning you have the power to change something for the better.
The other slogan in the orange strip reads Bau keinen Mist. This means literally ‘Don’t build any manure’, which like many literal translations makes no sense in English. What it means is something like ‘Don’t do anything stupid.’
And at the bottom of the trash can there is a Misttelefon, literally ‘manure telephone’, which you can call if you have problems with your trash collection.
The German word Mist is also a mild expletive, sort of like the English word crud, which you can use to express displeasure if you don’t want to say a taboo word.
Here’s another slogan about beer. Gebaut nach dem Reinheitsgebot von 2013 is somewhat funny because the words gebaut (built) and gebraut (brewed) are the same except for one letter. The slogan means literally that this trash can was built in accordance with the Purity Law of 2013, which does not exist but is meant to echo the well-known Beer Purity Law (usually the one enacted in Bavaria in the year 1516) which specifies that only barley, hops and water may be used in the brewing of beer.
Incidentally, the little dog that appears on most of these trash cans is holding a sign reading Nimm ein Sackerl für mein Gackerl, which is a quaint Austrian expression meaning ‘Take a little bag for my little excrement’.
Zeit für Gefülle could be taken to mean something like ‘Time for material used for filling’ (though I’m not at all sure the word Gefülle really exists in German). This is a variation on the common expression Zeit für Gefühle = Time for emotions. (Often used in advertising slogans.)
In the orange strip at the top of this trash can there is a different slogan, Eurowischen Putz Contest, which literally means ‘Euromopping Cleaning Contest’. This is meant to echo the Eurovision Song Contest.
Here’s one from astronomy. A Black Hole seeks left-over matter.
Here are two slogans that are often seen near the theaters in Vienna. Das Publikum gibt mir alles means ‘The public gives me everything’, that is ‘I owe everything to my public.’ This is something actors often say (or feel obliged to say) in interviews. The second slogan, Beifall für Abfall means ‘Applause for rubbish’, which is mildly funny only because the German words for applause and rubbish both end with the same syllable, -fall.
Ihre Papiere, bitte is something you might hear from the police or a border guard: “Your papers, please.” Meaning they want to see your passport, ID card or visa. But here of course the trash can just wants your waste paper.
Bin für jeden Dreck zu haben means literally ‘I am to be had for any rubbish’. It sounds like something an adventurous, reckless person might say (more often in films than in real life): If you’re going to do something crazy, stupid or illegal, count me in.
This one makes it sound as though the trash can is going through a profound existential crisis. Gib meinem Hängen einen Sinn means literally ‘Give my hanging a meaning’. In other words, it is (totally, agonizingly) senseless for me to be hanging here unless you put some trash into me. (For those who read German, a columnist of the Austrian newspaper Die Presse once wrote an entire column about this slogan.)
The one on the left is a variation on the Spanish and English question “Hasta la vista, baby?” (meaning “See you later, baby?”), only the Spanish vista is replaced by mista, a nonsense word made from the German word Mist ( = manure or trash). And the one on the right is a variation of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan “Yes, we can!”
Mir kannst du ruhig alles anvertrauen is usually used to mean something like ‘you can trust me and tell me everything (your secrets or troubles or whatever)’. But here of course it just means that you can entrust me (the trash can) with all your rubbish.
My photos in this post are from 2016. The text was last revised in 2017.