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I am a non-native speaker from Germany. In German there's one idiom that goes:

Sich die Eier schaukeln

Literally translated, this means "to rock the eggs", where "the eggs" are testicles. This is used to express severe boredom, especially to describe procrastinating or one's state of mind when you should be appointed to a task, but aren't.

It is somewhat vulgar as it involves testicles, yet it is a widely used idiom which would not actually be perceived as an inappropriate thing to say in general.

I searched for a translation that would fit and found:

fucked the dog

(from Urban Dictionary). Now I would like to know if this is actually a common thing to say and whether there are any alternatives that are more suitable for daily use.

  • 43
    screwed the pooch is the idiom in AmE. But it means to bungle something. – TRomano Jul 15 '15 at 11:48
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    I have never heard fuck the dog (or indeed screw the pooch) to describe hanging around, procrastinating, doing nothing when you ought to be doing something else. So at least in my personal experience, it’s definitely not common. Sich die Eier schaukeln seems quite similar to twiddling one’s thumbs, though I’m not sure if the implication is quite the same—procrastination is not usually an inherent factor in twiddling one’s thumbs. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 15 '15 at 11:56
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    We're treading water.... can mean we're hanging around waiting for something to do, or waiting for something to take place or for some decision to be made before we can get to work ourselves. – TRomano Jul 15 '15 at 11:58
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    Actually, come to think of it, a direct translation could work in some cases: scratching your balls tends to imply at least boredom, if not exactly procrastination, and definitely carries the same connotations as the German phrase. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 15 '15 at 12:02
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    Fucking the dog meaning wasting time is at the very least a current Canadian idiom. If you used it to mean bungled the job here, you'd be sorely misunderstood. – bye Jul 15 '15 at 22:35
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"Fuck the dog" (or its milder variant, "screw the pooch") comes from an old joke.

There are various versions, but a drunk man ends up shooting the wife and screwing the pooch (instead of the other way around).

Reddit

It is certainly not about idleness, but epic failure to get a sequence right. Janus Bahs Jacquet's suggestion of using the literal translation of your German idiom is probably a lot closer to the mark for what you need. If you want something a little more sanitized, try "scratching our backsides*" (or use another body part to replace "balls").

*originally I had "heads" here, but Janus points out that that strays into a different meaning.

  • 1
    @PeterShor: Evidence is all over the Web, but I can tell you that I personally heard this particular joke many times growing up, well before there was an Internet. So when I first heard the abstracted phrase "screw the pooch" there was no doubt where it came from. – Robusto Jul 15 '15 at 12:42
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    Substituting the balls for the head doesn’t seem like the best option—scratching your head has quite a different meaning (puzzlement, bewilderment). You might say scratching our back sides, which I’d say is perhaps more euphemised than sanitised, but should still be usable. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 15 '15 at 14:04
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    I've never heard fuck the dog in any context. Screw the pooch is widely used, though (and I didn't know it came from a dirty joke :P). – Peter Cordes Jul 15 '15 at 14:11
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    Agreeing with @PeterCordes that I've never heard "fuck the dog" in any context. Adding that I'm an American. – DCShannon Jul 16 '15 at 0:06
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    I have heard the more alliterative "dicking the dog" applied to workers who were not working. – Mike Jul 16 '15 at 0:32
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If you want an idiom that's still mildly vulgar, but still gets used in daily speech:

"We are just sitting here with our thumbs in our asses, (waiting for something to do)"

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    On ELL one would be asked Does that mean each person has both thumbs up the ass, or is it one thumb per ass per person, or some mixture thereof? – TRomano Jul 15 '15 at 14:34
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    @TimRomano My favorite version of it is, you have one thumb in your ass and one in your mouth, and then play "switch". (n.b. this is my favorite version of the saying. not my favorite idle pastime.) – Hellion Jul 15 '15 at 17:14
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    An even less vulgar version is "thumbs up our butts." – MiniRagnarok Jul 15 '15 at 17:23
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    +1, this is pretty close to the original phrase, but I would expect "thumbs up our asses". Same thing. – DCShannon Jul 16 '15 at 0:00
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    None of these are mild enough to risk offending others, and care should be taken in professional environments lest one experience negative repercussion from careless usage. – ErikE Jul 16 '15 at 17:53
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If you wanted to capture the spirit of the German, you could say

We're just sitting here playing with ourselves while upper management is deciding which approach to take.

or

I'm not doing much of anything, just sitting here playing with myself.

In a workplace context, it would not be taken literally. :)

P.S. It's not the sort of thing men would typically say in mixed company at the office, however. Though I imagine that it could be said, given the right personalities. You might hear female military personnel saying this, for example, "co-opting" male lingo.

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    Depends on the office. At one of my jobs, it would be perfectly commonplace for both men and women to say this—including its more vulgar varieties. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 15 '15 at 12:10
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    In many US offices, one could get reprimanded or fired for using language like this in mixed company. We're very PC here, and our HR departments are havens for the humorless. – TRomano Jul 15 '15 at 12:15
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The commonest expression I can think of to express boredom is "to twiddle one's thumbs". "Screwing the pooch", while an idiom, has an entirely different meaning: to spectacularly mess up, usually in an embarrasingly public way.

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    I'm surprised this is so far down, it seems like the best match. – BOMEz Jul 17 '15 at 15:06
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I don't know how commonplace it is, but the phrase jerking around is what I would use in this situation:

"Quit jerking around and do something productive!"

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    I always thought that jerking around would involve stupid jokes and/or childish behaviour? – Wottensprels Jul 15 '15 at 17:02
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    @Sprottenwels: You may be correct. Perhaps it doesn't apply as accurately as I thought. – GentlePurpleRain Jul 15 '15 at 17:03
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    +1, I'm familiar with this usage, and similar ones such as "quit screwing around", "quit fucking around". – DCShannon Jul 16 '15 at 0:01
  • In my experience "jerking around" is incorrect, it would be "jerking off". To be "jerked around" means to be forced by another to go through meaningless steps (that on the surface have the appearance of legitimacy or effectiveness) with the purpose of delaying or blocking one's own aims. – ErikE Jul 16 '15 at 17:55
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    @ErikE "To be jerked around" and "to jerk around" are different, though. The latter is the same as "to jerk off" in the sense of messing around. Lots of examples. – Matthew Read Jul 17 '15 at 1:04
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If you're looking for something non-vulgar that conveys the same meaning, try

"Loafing around"

or

"Goofing off"

Other more specific phrases might be "Holding up the wall" or "Keeping the bench warm".

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    "Keeping the bench warm" and the similar "riding the pine" carry the implication that the idleness is involuntary and due to a perceived lack of ability. – Spehro Pefhany Jul 18 '15 at 12:46
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    That's why I said they were more specific - without knowing the context this needs to be used in, it's hard to say what would be most appropriate. Anyhow, just pointing out that there's any number of non-vulgar alternatives to this phrase depending on the situation. – Darrel Hoffman Jul 18 '15 at 13:41
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The past tense does not sound right to me, but a version of this term was actually used in Canada ca. 1980 and I'm fairly sure it would be understood today.

Q: "What are you up to?"

A: "Just f*cking the dog."

The meaning was that the person was idle or engaged in pointless or useless activities.

Source: personal experience

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    I don't know how things go in Canada, but I'm pretty sure this wouldn't translate the way you're thinking it would in the U.S.. – Iszi Jul 17 '15 at 14:20
  • @Iszi Obviously, I'm aware of the shocking literal interpretation. Personally, I wouldn't use it in Canada, let alone a foreign country in which the natives communicate in a range of different dialects, but the comment above by @ bye confirms my memory. – Spehro Pefhany Jul 17 '15 at 15:27
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    I'll agree with this. In my experience the expression would be well understood as such in many parts of Canada. It seems more common in rural areas and among somewhat older speakers. There may also be an East/West bias (possibly more common in Eastern Canada). – J... Jul 18 '15 at 11:02
  • As a Canadian living in Ontario I've never heard this expression. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jul 21 '15 at 17:07
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 I mentioned it to a fairly recent South African immigrant, and he said he's heard it more than once from older native-born Canadians. – Spehro Pefhany Jul 21 '15 at 17:10

protected by Andrew Leach Jul 15 '15 at 21:17

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