Friday, October 16, 2009

As the French say, that certain "I don't know what."

I keep on noticing the prevalence of Schadenfreude among my children. Yeah, they were not familiar with the term either. It's a German word referring to taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune. They love to see each other get in trouble or have bad things happen to them, but that's a post on depravity we'll save for another day.

But, for your learning pleasure, I share some other neat terms from the Fatherland, terms that tend to express an idea better than English might.
  • An sich - in itself
  • Backpfeifengesicht - German compound word for a face that should be hit
  • Besserwisser - "better knower," somebody who knows better or best and who does not hesitate to inform the others about it; akin to a "know-it-all"
  • Dasein - existence or being there, an entity's potentiality1
  • Doppelgänger - "double goer" - a ghostly double, look-alike, or clone of a person
  • Dummkopf - "dummy head"
  • Fahrvergnügen - enjoyment derived from driving
  • Freispiel - free play or free game
  • Gemütlichkeit - connotes the notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic and the opportunity to spend quality time
  • Gesundheit - health
  • Heilsgeschichte - salvation history, God's positive saving actions throughout history
  • Hinterland - remote area, back country
  • Kaputt - out of order
  • Kitsch - cheap, sentimental, gaudy items of popular culture, trinkets
  • Schadenfreude - pleasure in someone else's misfortune
  • Schweinehund - "pig dog," common term of insult
  • Sitz im Leben - setting in life, context
  • Spielzeug - play thing, toy
  • Übermensch - overman or superman2
  • Verboten - forbidden
  • Verstehen - understanding
  • Wanderlust - a strong need or desire to travel
  • Weltanschauung - world view
  • Wunderbar - wonderful
  • Wunderkind - wonder kid, miracle child
  • Zeitgeist - spirit of the time

See also nunchi, a Korean word for the innate ability to sense what would be the wrong thing to say in a situation (and presumably the ability to then not say it).

1 - Dasein was famously examined by Martin Heidegger in Being and Time. It is derived from da-sein, which literally means "being-there/here," though Heidegger was not fond of this translation. Heidegger chose this term as a synonym for "human entity" in order to emphasize the critical importance "being" has for our understanding and interpretation of the world.

2 - Übermensch was made famous as a concept by Friedrich Nietzsche, who declared the Übermensch as a goal for humanity, overcoming the herd, in his book Also Sprach Zarathustra.

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At 17 October, 2009 22:36, Blogger Rev. said...

Germans have such great words, but their 9-mile paragraphs are a bear to translate!

At 18 October, 2009 00:25, Blogger GUNNY said...

I've always loved the stringing together of long compound words. For example ...

English: "One way street"

Deutsch: "Einbahnstraße"

Imagine playing Scrabble in German!

At 19 October, 2009 10:15, Blogger Oilcan said...

Is someone finally working on his doctorate in rhetoric?

It's on?


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