A literal translation for this idiomatic phrase is ‘the yellow of the egg.’ Though at first this expression sounds nonsensical, with a little explanation this will become an excellent German saying to litter your speech with.
‘Das Eigelb’ is the German word for a yolk, but here ‘the yellow of the egg’ is also referring to an egg’s golden centre.
Essentially, this phrase encompasses the idea that the yolk is the best part of the egg. Where the egg white is considered tasteless and boring, the delicious yolk is what people really enjoy.
As such, this means that if someone tells you that you are ‘the yellow of the egg,’ then it is a massive compliment. Conversely, if someone says that you, or your efforts, are not ‘the yellow of the egg’ then it implies you need to improve yourself or your work somewhat.
Allegedly, this phrase originates from the mid-60’s.
This phrase equates relatively well to a similar English food idiom- ‘the best thing since sliced bread.’ Or if someone is ‘das Gelbe vom Ei,’ they could be referred to as ‘the bee’s knees.’ Another similar English phrase which reflects ‘nicht das Gelbe vom Ei,’ would be ‘it’s nothing to write home about.’
Das Buch, das ich gestern gelesen habe, war nicht gerade das Gelbe vom Ei.
The book which I yesterday was not the best.
Deine Hilfe beim Projekt war das Gelbe vom Ei, danke!
Your help with the project was amazing, thank you!
Deutschland ist die Schönste, die Nummer Eins, das Gelbe vom Ei!
Germany is the most beautiful, the number one, the best thing since sliced bread!