Note: All threads are intended to remain active after the day they were created—just click on the right-pointing arrow at each month to see the threads created that month.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Word of the Month: Der Kummerspeck

We encountered Kummer (sorrow, grief, anxiety) already in Liebeskummer, our word of the month for December 2009. Speck is the fatty tissue people or animals may carry on their bodies.* Kummerspeck, then, is the stuff that grows visibly around the midriff of people who overeat out of anxiety or grief.
*It may be also a byproduct of the slaughtering of hogs, eaten as such or used to flavor dishes; but that's not the meaning in the present context.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Word of the Month: Fremdschämen

Fremd is an adjective meaning, in this context, "alien" or "foreign." Schämen is a (reflexive) verb meaning "to be ashamed" or "to be embarrassed." In combination, they mean "to be ashamed for somebody else who is behaving in an embarrassing way." The verb is used, in particular, if there is some indication that the culprits themselves are not embarrassed, even though they should be. For example, one may conclude the description of the outrageous behavior of some spectators at an event with the sentence, "Ich hab mich fremdgeschämt (I felt embarrassed [for these people])."

The verb appears for the first time in the Duden, the official German spelling dictionary, in 2009. That is, it is of relatively recent coinage, and I was not aware of it until I saw it used some years ago in an online forum. Since then, it has become a favorite of mine for several reasons. For one, it succinctly represents a feeling that overcomes me at times. It also demonstrates, again, the ease with which one can combine seemingly unrelated words in German to capture, in a compact form, some nuanced meaning—apparently, this process is still going on in the German language community.

I am well aware that using our current Word of the Month as a foreign word in English is just about impossible. It is, first of all, a verb, and I have no idea how you would conjugate it in English. In addition, it is a reflexive verb, which makes this task even more challenging (see the example in the opening paragraph). I decided nevertheless to make fremdschämen a Word of the Month for the reasons stated above. People traveling to Germany or reading German papers may encounter it, and students of the German language may find it an interesting neologism in its own right.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Word of the Month: Der Lückenbüßer

[A drawing is in the works--I'm late with this owing to my recent travels.]

A Lücke is a gap or narrow opening and a Büßer a penitent. However, the ~büßer part in Lückenbüßer derives from a now obsolete meaning of the verb büßen: To improve upon or correct something. So, a Lückenbüßer is someone who fills in for someone else without being really qualified for the job. The term is closely related to Notnagel, our word of the month for 9/2008, where the latter term is, possibly, a little less derogatory than our current word of the month.

Note that in spite of its outdated use of büßer, this compound noun is very much in use in present-day Germany.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Segeln in der Ägäis (Sailing in the Aegean): New Photobook

A photo diary (in German) of my recent trip, augmented by snippets of how we experienced the concurrent soccer World Cup. As always, hit the full screen button for the best view (although the photos may look grainy on some monitors).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil

I just arrived in Cologne and I'm looking forward to watching as many matches as possible with brothers and friends interested in and knowledgeable about soccer. As I did in the past, I'm creating this post to give friends on the Internet a chance to comment on and discuss matches and prospects with like-minded people.

However, I'll be leaving for Turkey tomorrow to go on a sailing trip until June 20 on my brother's boat, moored right now in Marmaris. I'm sure we'll have many opportunities to watch matches there, but I do not know how often I will be able to comment. I hope this will not deter any readers from putting their two cents in. To start things off, I'm posting an initial comment about the German team and the mood I perceive in the country.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Word of the Month: Die Jugendsünde

Here's a word that pops up frequently in German discussions about forgetting on the web, especially when it comes to social media. Jugend means "youth" and Sünde "sin." If you did something foolish in your youth and are embarrassed when you are reminded of it in later life, you may try to dismiss your trespass as a Jugendsünde, as something that should be ignored or forgiven in light of your age at the time. Examples may be a bad poem you published as a freshman in a student newspaper or a tasteless selfie you posted as a teenager on Instagram. Truly criminal acts can hardly ever be considered Jugendsünden (that's the plural).

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Word of the Month: Der Wackelkandidat

June 3 is the deadline for the managers of the 32 national teams qualified for this year’s soccer World Cup in Brazil to name the 23 players that will represent their country during the competition. At this late stage in the preparations, most of those players are typically known, but a few are still Wackelkandidaten. Wackeln means "to totter" or "to shake," and a Wackelkandidat (that's the singular) is a “shaky candidate,” someone who is in the running for an office or position and has a chance to win, but whose success is by no means guaranteed.

As far as the German World Cup team is concerned, most experts agree that about 19-20 players “have the ticket” for Brazil as of now—the rest will come from a pool of ca. 7-8 Wackelkandidaten, and their fate is being passionately discussed by fans and in the media.