Kirschgrün: When they pass a traffic light just after it turned red, Germans like to defend themselves by saying it was “cherry green”

Literally: “Cherry Green” / meaning: A playful way to describe running a red light, suggesting it wasn’t fully red.

We’ve all been there. Approaching a traffic light, seeing it change from green to yellow, and then, just as you’re about to pass through, it flicks to red. In Germany, if you’re caught in that slightly questionable moment of decision-making, you might defend your choice by saying the light was still Kirschgrün.

It’s a humorous way Germans describe that “maybe already red but maybe not quite” light. The term paints a picture of a color somewhere between green and red, like a ripening cherry. By saying this, they’re playfully suggesting that the light wasn’t fully red when they crossed it, even if, well, it probably was.

While insisting the light was Kirschgrün isn’t a legitimate defense in traffic court, it’s a favorite amongst those who wish to downplay their slightly tardy reactions. It’s a reminder that, globally, humans are pretty ingenious when it comes to justifying those tiny rule breaks, even if it’s with a wink and a smile. So next time you’re caught stretching the limits of a traffic light, remember the Germans and their ever-ripe Kirschgrün. Just make sure it doesn’t land you in actual trouble.

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