There’s A German Word for That

alex atkins bookshelf wordsBen Schott begins his fascinating word book, Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition, with this quotation from Charles Follen: “The German language is sufficiently copious and productive, to furnish native words for any idea that can be expressed at all.” German, like English, can create long compound words from many parts of speech; however, the difference is that English words tend to be short and hyphenated (eg, “fact-check”) while German words tend to long and combined without any hyphens or spaces (eg, “Trittbrettunsterblichkeit”, which translated means “immortality achieved by riding on someone’s coattails.”) But it is German’s basic structure that encourages words to be formed by combining several words together without any connectors. A German reader simply  breaks down each part to derive its figurative or literal meaning. For example, in English you would write, “the card from the automat of the steam-powered ship traveling on the Rhine.” However, in German, you would simply write “Rheindampfschiffautomatenkarte.” Here are some of the wonderful German words that do not have any single-word translations in English:

brillenbrillianz: the sudden clarity when you put glasses on

ludwigssyndrom: finding an indecipherable note in your own handwriting

inteimbereichsverkrampfung: reluctance to enter cold water, felt progressively at each erogenous zone

deppenfabrerbeaugung: the urge to turn back and glare at the bad driver you just passed

saukopfsulzensehnsucht: shameful love of bad food

leetretung: stepping down heavily on a stair that isn’t there

tageslcihtspealschock: being startled when walking into broad daylight after leaving a dark movie theatre

schlussselszenenadlerauge: knowing from memory where a specific passage is located in a book

buchadlerauge: knowing from memory where a specific book can be found on a shelf

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition by Ben Schott

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.