How would you translate "Ich bin etwas durch den Wind" into English?

"Durch den Wind sein" means having scattered or not fully coherent thoughts, not having full presence of mind (Geistesgegenwart), and seeming distracted or not fully awake. It's the state of mind that can occur after experiencing something traumatizing or when being stressed out.

I was wondering if there was an English word or idiom that captures all those different facets of the German one.

Edit (context for translation):

I'm sorry I didn't call you, I've been a little [something] lately and forgot.

  • 1
    "I am a little addled right now", but context would dictate a proper translation.
    – J. Taylor
    Dec 7, 2018 at 17:16
  • 3
    With the context, I would try: "... I've been a little out-of-sorts lately..." A hazy or foggy mind might also work to describe that state. "...my mind has been a little hazy lately..."
    – Gwendolyn
    Dec 7, 2018 at 17:24
  • 2
    "I'm a little out of it right now."
    – Robusto
    Dec 7, 2018 at 17:25

6 Answers 6


The German expression durch den Wind sein (lit., be through the wind) derives from the sailing term durch den Wind wenden, ‘tack into the wind’, that is, to maneuver at an angle to maintain motion against the wind. Depending on the size of the ship and wind speed, this can be a quite exhausting task.

In the common German expression action becomes a state with connotations of physical exhaustion and a concomitant mental distraction or lack of focus. Those who have no idea of the origin of the expression might think of walking against a strong wind or wind scattering leaves or small bits of trash. Others will use the expression without any thought of metaphor as simply another way of describing a mental or physical state, i.e., a dead metaphor that has become just another vocabulary item.

While this precise sailing technique has not become a common expression in English, two closely allied sailing terms have certainly done so: sailing against the wind and sailing too close to the wind.

Sailing against the wind encompasses the entire action of laboriously tacking back and forth instead of moving in a straight line. This has come to mean holding a minority opinion against the “wind” of the majority:

Mitchell then joined with several other towns in the effort to have the capital remain undisturbed, but soon found they were sailing against the wind. — Bismarck Weekly Tribune (Dakota Terr.) 6 June 1884.

Several towns in the Dakota Territory opposed moving the capital to Bismarck, which the majority of the territory favored.

Sailing too close to the wind is not tacking soon enough so that forward motion stops or, depending on wind speed and the size of the craft, the boat capsizes. This has come to mean engaging in risky behavior:

The important reductions of the tariff under the Clay compromise were not to take place until the next year. The treasury was sailing too close to the wind for the nation’s financial safety and it became necessary to enact a law that would prevent these reductions going into effect. — Los Angeles Herald, 6 Apr. 1909.

English sailing metaphors, then, can’t carry the same meaning as the German because they are already occupied.

So in the German expression, you have a sharp turn or a back and forth motion on water that leaves a person exhausted and disoriented. Transfer that to land and a vertical plane and you get:

I’ve been on a real rollercoaster. / It’s been a real rollercoaster.

This can imply experiencing a wide range of emotions, which isn’t at the forefront of the German expression, as well as hectic activity, which often is, and both of these can be exhausting. At the moment, however, I can’t think of another metaphor that keeps both the physical and mental states of durch den Wind in one place while still maintaining the action underlying it.

  • 1
    +1 for explaining what the German metaphor durch den Wind actually means. Dec 8, 2018 at 13:42

You suggested possibly the most common terms

I'm sorry I didn't call you, I've been a little distracted lately and forgot.
I'm sorry I didn't call you, I've been a little traumatized lately and forgot.

However to be more vague as to an important reason :-)

I'm sorry I didn't call you, I've been a little preoccupied lately and forgot.

preoccupied [adjective] Engrossed in thought; distracted. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/preoccupied

or looking for the closest to being blown about by the wind

I'm sorry I didn't call you, I've been a little blown apart lately and forgot.

However it would be more common to say one of these two related to fluttering about

I'm sorry I didn't call you, I've been a little flustered lately and forgot.

in a state of agitated confusion https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flustered

I'm sorry I didn't call you, I've been a little perturbed lately and forgot.

to be worried or upset https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perturbed


How about absent-minded?


Or scatterbrained?



For what's it's worth to address "state of mind that can occur after experiencing something traumatizing."

Shell-shocked - mentally confused, upset, or exhausted as a result of a highly stressful or disturbing and often unexpected event or experience

This is a bit strong for describing oneself in present-tense, though.


If you're looking for a sailing idiom that means something similar, how about

I've been under the weather lately.

Under the weather usually means either drunk or ill, but it can also be used for being exhausted or under stress. It is origin is generally believed to be nautical.


Major qualification: the answer given immediately below is not standard English and I'm not recommending its general use. I'm giving this answer as it's the kind of thing that might well interest readers of this site.

There is the German expression durcheinander, which has some similarities with durch den Wind, and which has a literal English equivalent in throughother, a word in Scottish and Irish dialects.

As it refers to people, Cambridge German-English Dictionary gives the following definition for durcheinander:

colloquial, Mensch verwirrt

confused, befuddled

Nach dem Unfall war sie völlig durcheinander.

After the accident she was really shaken up.

In English, throughother is common enough a word that we don't have to resort to Scots or Hiberno-English dictionaries; it can be found in Oxford Living Dictionaries:

throughother adjective

Scottish, Irish

(of a person) disordered; confused.

‘you're as tossed and throughother as if you'd been doing a day's work’

(Throughother can also be used to refer to things being out of order, exactly as durcheinander can.)

Interestingly, although perhaps not altogether unsurprisingly, there is a word with exactly the same form in Irish too - trína chéile - which more or less breaks down as through-the-other (or throughout (itself)).

Given that the English equivalent is used in both Scotland and Ireland, there's a very good chance that such a word exists in Scots Gaelic too.

In addition, the words Cambridge German-English Dictionary gave as equivalent to durcheinander are all nice standard English words that could be used instead of durch den Wind.



1 (of a person) unable to think clearly; bewildered.

‘she was utterly confused about what had happened’

1.1 Showing bewilderment.

‘a confused expression crossed her face’

1.2 Not in possession of all one's mental faculties, especially because of old age.

‘interviewing confused old people does take longer’


verb [with object] usually as adjective befuddled

Cause to become unable to think clearly.

‘even in my befuddled state I could see that they meant trouble’

shake up

phrasal verb

If you are shaken up or shook up by an unpleasant experience, it makes you feel shocked and upset, and unable to think calmly or clearly.

The jockey was shaken up when he was thrown twice from his horse yesterday.

He was in the car when those people died. That really shook him up.

He said that the accident had left her a bit shook up, but she was going to be just fine.

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