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In Chapter 10 of All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul and his comrades are goofing around by pretending to give orders to each other.

"Tjaden!" - "What?" - "Stand at ease, Tjaden; and what's more, don't say 'What,' say 'Yes, Sir,' - now: Tjaden!" Tjaden retorts in the well-known phrase from Goethe's "Götz von Berlichingen," with which he is always very free.

What is the well known phrase from Götz von Berlichingen?

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The most famous phrase from Goethe's play Götz von Berlichingen is "er kann mich im Arsche lecken!" This is taken from the third act, when Götz von Berlichingen's castle is being besieged and a herald comes to tell him it were better to surrender. This leads to a response that made the play famous:

Mich ergeben! Auf Gnad und Ungnad! Mit wem redet Ihr! Bin ich ein Räuber! Sag deinem Hauptmann: Vor Ihro Kaiserliche Majestät hab ich, wie immer, schuldigen Respekt. Er aber, sag's ihm, er kann mich im Arsche lecken!
[Schmeißt das Fenster zu.]

Translation (1885, hosted by The Online Library of Liberty):

Surrender—surrender at discretion. With whom speak you? Am I a robber? Tell your captain, that for the emperor I entertain, as I have ever done, all due respect; but as for him, he may lick my arse!
[Shuts the window with violence.]

Many editions censored the last few words, for example:

  • on Zeno.org: "Er aber, sag's ihm, er kann mich – –",
  • on Wikisource: "Er aber, sag’s ihm, er kann mich – – –",
  • in the above English translation, which actually said, "but as for him, he may—". (I added the missing words in the quote above.)

The words are so famous they are known in Germany as "schwäbischer Gruß" or "Swabian salute". Today, you can hear the phrase "leck mich am Arsch" in informal conversation, but it would be ill-advised to say it to someone of authority.

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The well known phrase is "Leck mich am Arsch" ("kiss my arse", but literally "lick me on the arse"). It is also known as the Swabian salute.

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  • Can you include the passage where this is found in Goethe's "Götz von Berlichingen"? Was the phrase frequently referred to as coming from that particular source? – Rand al'Thor Sep 6 '19 at 14:21
  • @Randal'Thor I can not, but I hope to see other answers that do! – MackM Sep 6 '19 at 14:27
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    The (redacted) text is on Wikisource at the bottom of the page. – Jos Sep 6 '19 at 14:41
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    "Few outside of Germany have probably ever heard of Götz von Berlichingen, the colourful 16th Century knight, mercenary and outlaw. But at some point in your life, you’ve probably uttered the famous phrase he coined: Mich am arsche lecken or “kiss my ass.” According to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who penned highly acclaimed play about the hard-fighting Teutonic warrior, von Berlichingen supposedly uttered the now-ubiquitous rejoinder in response to a surrender ultimatum during a siege at Jagsthausen Castle. In fact to this day, the expression is known in Germany as the “Swabian salute.”" – Rand al'Thor Sep 6 '19 at 20:02
  • ^ from militaryhistorynow.com/2015/07/06/… Maybe you can edit your answer to include this or an equivalent link/quote/source? You've clearly got the right answer, but as well as being correct, it's also nice for an answer to be well supported so that it's verifiably correct :-) – Rand al'Thor Sep 6 '19 at 20:03
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There is a Wikipedia page about this play and this notorious passage and the various editions which printed it straight or expurgated. According to Wikipedia, in Act 3, Scene 16, Goethe wrote:

Mich ergeben! Auf Gnad und Ungnad! Mit wem redet Ihr! Bin ich ein Räuber! Sag deinem Hauptmann: Vor Ihro Kaiserliche Majestät hab ich, wie immer, schuldigen Respekt. Er aber, sag's ihm, er kann mich im Arsche lecken!

which W translates as

Me, surrender! At mercy! Whom do you speak with? Am I a robber! Tell your captain that for His Imperial Majesty, I have, as always, due respect. But he, tell him that, he can lick me in the arse!

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https://www.reclam.de/data/media/978-3-15-019153-8.pdf

I did a word search for the original German phrase and nothing came up, but this looks like it might not be complete

http://files.libertyfund.org/files/2113/Goethe_0841-03_EBk_v6.0.pdf

I also couldn't find anything in this English translation

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  • P.137 of the English translation linked here: "Surrender—surrender at discretion. With whom speak you? Am I a robber? Tell yourcaptain, that for the emperor I entertain, as I have ever done, all due respect; but as forhim, he may—" – kimchi lover Mar 4 at 14:31
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    The first link only contains text from the first act, not from the act that contains the phrase. In the second link, which contains a 19th-century translation, the "key words" have been censored by the translator. On a more general note, you should provide context and quotes instead of just posting links. – Tsundoku Mar 4 at 14:45

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