Schadenfreude? Nein…Schottenfreude! German words for the human condition

Am down to my last packet of handkerchiefs even though I bought a packet of 10 the other day. Just in case, I thought then. But yesterday I began to rip them out of their packet in lighting speed to stop the endless flow from my nose. Today I am trapped in my bed with regular intervals of sleeping, wakening, shivering, sneezing, drenching my grandmother’s white embroidered handkerchief with eucalyptus oil and placing it over my meanwhile very delicate red nose in order to sooth some annoying sinus pain and help my breathing. Luckily, I found a packet of paracetamol, and so keep swallowing  one 500mg pill in regular intervals in the hope of killing the typical cold-and-flu-associated-aches-and-pains.

Having been awake for over an hour I am now sitting up in my bed with 3 large pillows supporting my back. Just moments before I decided to re-read the excerpt from Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude (New York Times, 11th October 2013), (thanks to my Tues lunchtime students, who emailed me the link!!) which demonstrates the beauty and playfulness of the German language with its ability to create words. New words by joining nouns together, for example (known as compound nouns), such as Fitnessstudio, which results in three of the same letters in a row (Fitness + Studio) or Schneeeule or Schnee-Eule (Schnee + Eule = snowy owl)

Ben Schott’s beautiful little book is a humorous delight for language and word lovers. However, Schottenfreude contains not just some beautifully constructed and poetic words, but the reader is at the same time entertained by their often amusing English definitions and background information.

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My favourite word at the moment is Herbstlaubtrittvergnügen, because I just love pronouncing it but also because of its meaning. That is, Herbst (autumn) is my favourite season and I love to see the leaves of the trees (Laub) changing colours before they fall to the ground. And I enjoy walking through foliage (treten = to kick, to thread on, to step) and all the little pleasures in life, such as kicking autumn leaves.

A slightly longer word mentioned in Schottenfreude (I counted 8 words) is Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss – new vehicle smell.

And now, before I fall into Sonntagsleerung (Sunday afternoon depression) I better take another paracetamol, listen to a some soothing music and dream up new words.

Here you can find an extract of the book, which gives you an idea of the it’s format. It also has a bonus audio recording of some of the words and their meanings.


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