Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Word of the Month: Die Nervensäge

Word of the Month: Index

Nerven are nerves, and a Säge is a saw. Taken together, they refer to somebody or something that gets on your nerve, badly and persistently. A Nervensäge can be strictly a creature of the imagination, like Frosty, the Snowman, or Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, or something that exists in real life, like a child who's endlessly complaining or a sports commentator who is more in love with the sound of his voice than the game he is supposed to comment on.

BTW The kind of handsaw that was the inspiration for my rendering of a Nervensäge is called a Fuchsschwanz (fox tail) in German.


Marlene said...

Well you nailed it when you called Frosty the Snowman an example of a nervensage. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, that song gets played relentlessly and for me, it's a real nervensage. Right up there with those awful chipmunks singing, "Deck the Halls," or whatever it is they sing.

I was equally interested in the German word for the saw because in looking at the drawing, the blade does indeed look like the fox tails I have seen, thankfully attached to foxes.

Ulrich said...

@Marlene: Good to hear from you!
I must confess that the liberties I took with the saw--making it look more cartoonish--strengthens the resemblance to a fox's tail.

Laraine Flemming said...

Well for an annoyance you made him kind of appealing. I like his little feet and how firmly he stands as he saws on her nerves. I think I am going to use this one a lot. It's so much more colorful and precise than saying. Boy are you going on my nerves.

Ulrich said...

@Laraine: You at least are used to the term. Over on Google+, a German complained that the word is "old-fashioned"--reason: He (obviously the center of the universe) hasn't heard it used for ages. My answer was that if (big if!) it is dead, it needs to be resurrected because of its expressiveness.

avidreader said...

There is a wonderful Yiddish word - Luftgesheft. It was used to describe wheeler-dealers (usually small-time and woefully unsuccessful, as described with wit and sympathy by Sholem Aleichem). I think about that word whenever I think of the sorry state of our -well, everything, I guess.
Does the word exist in German?
(I have to look and see if you have an index to the Word of the Month posts.)

Ulrich said...

@Drora: Luftgeschäft would be a perfectly fine German word, but alas, it doesn't exist. And I can't think right now of one that would have the same meaning.
About the index: You just put another task on my to-do list--it's an excellent idea, and I will get to it soon!

avidreader said...

Is there a column in Der Spiegel or something for words to answer a need, like in the Sunday Times? It is such a perfect definition. I always think about it when young kids tell me they go to college to study business. (Just jealous, I guess. My crazy, hyper-talented son... but this is way beyond the scope of this post.)

Ulrich said...

Again, this sounds like an excellent idea, especially for German with its plethora of compound nouns, each with a very nuanced meaning that otherwise would have to be expressed by a much wordier phrase. Obviously, digging these words out and presenting them to English speakers is the main motivation behind the Word of the Month on Krautblog.