gar nichts

The other night, I was watching the European Jumping Championships on Eurosport. An excellent German rider was all set to win the gold medal when his horse took down a bar on the very last jump. That bar, said the announcer, was the difference between Gold und gar nichts. It’s easy to understand that nichts is nothing. But what about gar? This word comes from garen, to cook, and it means anything cooked all the way through or done completely. (Half-baked, in German, is halbgar.) So gar nichts is absolutely nothing, and it’s not changing now–nothing can be done to mend it. And that’s what the poor German rider won.

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