“There’s a German Word for That”


On Facebook, I started this weekly series to share the wealth and fun that is German.

“These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions.” -Mark Twain, “The Awful German Language,” in A Tramp Abroad.

5/16/14: Straußmaneuver (shtraowss – mah-noo-ver): The short-term defense strategy of simply denying reality. (literally: “ostrich maneuver”)

5/23/14: Speichelgleichmit (shpīk-el – glīk-mit) [try to do a touch of phlegm-clearing on the Ks] : Pretending a speaker didn’t accidentally spit on you during a conversation. (literally: “saliva stoicism”)

When I told Delia this week’s word, she said she experienced Speichelgleichmit earlier that day. These words are uber-utilitarian.

5/30/14: Entlistungsfreude (ent-liss-toongs – froy-duh): The joy experienced by crossing things off lists. (literally: “de-listing joy”)

6/6/14: Kühlshrankblockade (kool-shrahnk – blō-kah-duh): Staring at the refrigerator, hungry but unsure of what to eat. (literally: “fridge blockade”)

6/13/14: (This one is a bit longer than I’d prefer but I picked it because today starts second week of the kiddy brats’ summer.) Sommerferienewigkeitsgefühl (zõm-mer-fair-ee-en – eh-vig-kites – ghe-fuul): Childhood sensation that the summer vacation will last forever. (literally: “summer-holidays eternity feeling”)

6/20/14: Aktivansteher (ahk-teev – ahn-shteh-er): One skilled in the various techniques of speedily and efficiently navigating lines/queues. (literally: “energetic queuer”)

6/27/14: Schlafchauvi (schlahf – shoh-vee): One who takes pride in getting little sleep. Margaret Thatcher was a Schlafchauvi. (literally: “sleep macho”)

7/4/14: Witzfingungsstörng (vitz-fin-doongs – shtoo-roong): The inability to remember jokes. (literally: “joke recall dysfunction”)

7/11/14: Witzbeharrsamkeit (vitz – beh-hahr-zahm-kite): Unashamedly repeating a joke or something clever until it is heard by everyone present. (literally: “joke insistence”)

7/18/14: Brillanbrillanz (brihl-len – brihl-lahnts): The sudden, innervating clarity afforded by new glasses. (literally: “spectacles luminosity”)

7/25/14: Kissenkühlelabsal (kis-sen – kuu-leh – lahb-zahhl): The ineffable pleasure, and instant relief, of a cool pillow. (literally: pillow chill refreshment)

8/1/14: Popelplaisir (poh-pel – pleh-zeer): Intimate moments of personal grooming. (literally: “booger bliss”)

8/8/14: Vernissageversuchung (fehr-niss-sar-je – fair-zoo-cchoong): The urge to test whether paint marked “wet paint” is indeed wet. (literally: “vernissage temptation”)

8/15/14: Irrleuchtung (ihr-loycch-toong): The surge of pleasure experienced as you solve, say, a crossword clue. (literally: “maze-ment”)

8/22/14: Einmaleinswiedergabeschwachenstolz (ine-mahl-ines – vee-der-gah-beh – shveh-cchen-shtolts) Pride in innumeracy. (literally: “multiplication table reproduction impairment pride”)

8/29/14: Traumneustartversuch (traowm – noy-shtahrt – fair-zoocch): The (usually futile) attempt to return to the plot of a dream after being awakened. (literally: “dream restart experiment”)

9/5/14: Sonntagsleerung (zohn-tahgs – leh-roong) Sunday afternoon depression (Monday dread). (literally: “Sunday emptying”)

9/12/14: Ruinenpornographie (roo-een-en – por-no-grah-fee) A morbid fascination with photographs of contemporary urban decay. (literally: “ruin pornography”)

9/19/14: Uberraschungspartyüberraschungsheuchelei (uu-ber-rah-shoongs-pahr-tee – uu-ber-rah-shoongs-hoy-cchel-eye): Feigning surprise at a surprise party. (literally: “surprise party surprise hypocrisy”)

9/26/14: Schubladenbrief (shoob-lah-den – breef): The letter you write, but never send. (literally: “desk drawer letter”)

10/3/14: Siechtumsschulung (zeecch-tooms – shoo-loong): The educative effects of a serious illness. (literally: “infirmity instruction”)

10/10/14: Fußfaust (fooss – foust): Instinctively curling up your toes in mortification at someone else’s embarrassment. (literally: “foot fist”)

10/17/14: Gesprächsgemetzel (ghe-shprecchs – ghe-mets-el): Moments when, for no good reason, a conversation suddenly goes awry. (literally: “conversation carnage”)

10/24/14: Gähnverseuchung (ghehn – fair-zoy-cchoong): One yawn’s irrestrainable power to provoke another. (literally: “yawn contamination”)

10/31/14: Damoklesschuld (dah-mo-klees – shoold): The haunting feeling of owing money you cannot repay. (literally: “Damocles debt”)


4 thoughts on ““There’s a German Word for That”

  1. 6/6/14: Kühlshrankblockade (kool-shrahnk – blō-kah-duh): Staring at the refrigerator, hungry but unsure of what to eat. (literally: “fridge blockade”) I like that one.

  2. My favorite is “Speichelgleichmit (shpīk-el – glīk-mit) (literally: “saliva stoicism”).” I used it yesterday. Delia said she was exercising it with me and then noted that saying that negated it. It’s like bragging about one’s great humility. 🙂

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