2

In German, there is an idiom "kraft seiner Wassersuppe" - literally translated by the force/power of his watery soup.
Is there any idiom in English that has a similar meaning or usage?

  1. The idiom can be used to deflate or expose unwarranted entitlement.

    e.g. The mayor thinks he can raise the dog tax kraft seiner Wassersuppe.
    = He thinks he has/should have the power legitimation to do this, but really he's lacking any legitimation/power to do so. He'd actually need the town council to do so. Nevertheless, the dog taxes will be raised - and the town council will not even protest that they weren't heard.

  2. It can also be used to emphasize that someone does something without need of the slightest further empowering reason or legitimation.

    e.g. The mayor can raise the dog tax kraft seiner Wassersuppe
    = The mayor can do that because they are mayor. No further legitimation needed.

  3. There can be a combination of both by having a skeptic connotation to 2.:

    e.g. The mayor can raise the dog tax kraft seiner Wassersuppe
    = The mayor can do that because they are mayor, but I don't see why a mayor should have the power to raise dog taxes.


Kraft = by virtue of here creates a quite solemn, lofty start and sets an expectation of a compelling reason for power coming. But what follows is that the expectation is deflated with the anticlimax of something that doesn't carry any power.

Wassersuppe is a soup based only on water in contrast to soups based on broth, stock or milk. I.e., water, a starchy ingredient and possibly some vegetables. Certainly not even little pieces of meat. Too thin to be considered a porridge. Think of a kasha served with so much water that the grains swim freely.
So basically, the poorest of poor people's food, something as non-nourishing as one could get within what can be called food.


update wrt. @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica's comments: The idiom typically does not question the mayor's ability to raise the dog tax. Power above may not have been the best description. I was thinking of the power e.g. a constitution gives to a government, in contrast to the factual power such a government has.

It's more in line with:

Someone: Mayor, why do you raise the dog tax?
Mayor: Because I can.

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  • Richard Dawkins: If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking will change it. – FumbleFingers Aug 30 '20 at 13:51
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica: while that's a nice phrase, I don't see the relation to what I'm asking. Could you explain what relation you see, so I can further clarify my question? – cbeleites unhappy with SX Aug 30 '20 at 14:00
  • Your first example He thinks he can do that kraft seiner Wassersuppe looks to me like it's essentially saying the same thing as He thinks he can do it by [the power of] wishful thinking. – FumbleFingers Aug 30 '20 at 14:04
  • I can’t think of an idiom, but prerogative and fiat have a distinct negative tone, though more in questioning the use of discretion rather than having it in the first place. In the US, royal prerogative does question the power itself, but that probably doesn’t translate to the rest of the Anglosphere. – StephenS Aug 30 '20 at 14:04
  • Google says there are almost 3 million hits for Saying it doesn't make it so, which might also be relevant here. So might King Canute and the tide. – FumbleFingers Aug 30 '20 at 14:07
1

There are many good suggestions given above for Wassersuppe, but I believe the closest English translations are:

He did it on a whim.

or sometimes

On a lark

Even more terse, but somewhat antiquated and decidedly a little silly:

He raised the tax willy-nilly.

I can't think of an idiom that plays the same language game of "let-down" to imply that the action should have been substantiated.

But we will very often say:

They mayor, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to....

and convey with vocal stress that the mayor likely has exactly zero wisdom, or no good reason. But this would not be good use if the mayor did have the required authority.

1

I haven't found an exact equivalent, but here are some suggestions.

  1. Entitlement:
  • "He thinks he can do that simply on his own say-so."
  • "He claims some sort of authority to do that."
  • "He is doing that simply on his own so-called 'authority'."
  1. Without further authority:
  • "The mayor can raise the dog tax off his own bat."
  • "The mayor can raise the dog tax simply on his own say-so."
  1. Sceptical:
  • "The mayor claims some sort of authority to raise the dog tax."
  • "The mayor can raise the dog tax simply on his own so-called 'authority'."
  • "It seems the mayor can raise the dog tax by mere diktat."
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  • "off his own bat"? Can you provide a usage from a corpus or text? – BadZen Aug 31 '20 at 0:15
  • 1
    "Mr Alan Greenspan - off his own bat, without even calling a meeting of the Federal Reserve, announced he was cutting the prime interest rate by one half per cent." ( bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/57qFQXhX276XlLK17VcTZln/… ) – rjpond Aug 31 '20 at 7:32
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One thing that comes to mind is a reiteration of the person’s identity, highlighting that this alone is enough for them to be empowered to do something.

The mayor can raise dog taxes because he’s the mayor.

John can just do it because he’s John.

I suppose the only thing lacking here is the humorous aspect; the phrase I’ve given is a bit more serious and perhaps a bit more defeatist/resigned, though it may also be said in a sarcastic tone to convey skepticism.

Also, with regards to [1], what comes to mind is the saying that someone is “all talk”, which can mean that the person talks as though they are going to do something, but in truth, they won’t, or lack the capacity to do so.

-1

The closest idiom I can think of is "you and whose army?", but it's much more limited in usage than your examples. It's closest to meaning 3 - usually used as a response to a threat, or a plan, which you think the speaker has no power or resources to carry out:

- Tomorrow I'm going to raise dog taxes.

- Oh, yeah? You and whose army?

It's also typically used in the second person - COCA shows no other results, and Google has few for "he" and "they", and only four for "she".

3
  • Thank you - that would also be case 1, wouldn't it? – cbeleites unhappy with SX Aug 30 '20 at 14:03
  • @cbeleitesunhappywithSX in your example sentence, yes. Overall to me it's more about the lack of power rather than entitlement - if you say eg. "I deserve a Nobel Prize", then it's not exactly applicable. – Maciej Stachowski Aug 30 '20 at 14:31
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    To me this is actually the opposite of what the question is asking for, and would be used in situations where the person apparently has no power. The mayor might ask “You and whose army?” of an ordinary citizen who threatens to stop him raising dog taxes. – Chris Mack Aug 30 '20 at 15:25

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