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

Friday, August 21, 2015

Word of the Month: Die Profilneurose

Word of the Month: Index

German Profil means, first of all, a side view of something, especially of the head of somebody. In that sense, it's very similar to English "profile" (The image on the left shows a detail of John Singer Sargent's Portrait of Madame X). But there is a second, more figurative meaning that comes into play in our current word of the month: The sum of the (positive) characteristics that uniquely identify someone and differentiate him or her from their peers. This derived meaning is probably a reflection of the fact that the unique shape of a person's forehead, nose, chin, and ears appears most clearly in a profile view. The "profile" applications like Facebook ask us to fill out hints at that second meaning, but doesn't have the heft of the German term.

Neurose is, of course, the German form of English "neurosis". In combination with Profil, it indicates a fear that one's standing among peers is not properly recognized, leading to deliberate efforts to correct the situation, which more often than not backfire because the motivation is obvious and observers are more amused than impressed. The publicity stunts politicians sometimes resort to are very often examples of a Profilneurose in action.


Heika said...

What a wonderful word, and boy did you ever find the perfect image to illustrate "profile." I am betting that with the campaigning season coming up in earnest, we will see many examples of Profileneurose.

Ulrich said...

Thanks, Heika. I'm glad you like the image--the painting is an absolute favorite of mine. And yes, I believe you will be right about the upcoming campaigns.

fikink said...

Paul and I guessed at it when we just saw it on Facebook. We were close: "identity crisis" Porfilneurose is the German equivalent of "posturing".

Miriam Brown said...

Good one, and indeed timely. I fear that public figures aren't the only sufferers from this malady. Plenty of FB users seem to be affected as well. :(.

Ulrich said...

@fikink: Yes, it's a form of posturing, with the added ingredient of a chip on the posturer's shoulder leading to neurotic behavior--I believe mere posturing can be more harmless at times.

@miriam: Thank God, none of my friends are affected!

Miriam Briown said...

Neither are mine, otherwise they wouldn't be FB friends.