Schadenfreude, and other Genius German expressions!

What does it mean??????If most people know anything at all about the German language, it is that it can produce some of the longest, bulkiest words ever,  which mostly seem impossible to pronounce. For instance, in English we simply say Incorporated; the German equivalent is aktiengesellschaft. And that’s a comparatively easy one.

On the other hand, though, German has a positive genius for producing single words that express the kind of complex ideas most other languages never even consider the need for. Like one of the most famous, and most useful German word-concepts:  schadenfreude. You may not know the word, but I’ll bet even money you’ve experienced the emotion: happiness at the misfortune of another. None of us likes to admit to it, of course — but unless we’re saints, we’ve felt it. (Just in case you may self-righteously choose to admonish someone else for it, it’s pronounced sha-den-froy-de.)

Now, I am informed in Real Simple magazine,  a man named Ben Schott has come up with a slender book of 120 great German terms. He calls his book Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition, and you can bet I’m going to be checking it out when it appears in November. Here are a couple of examples quoted in Real Simple. I bet you’ll identify with at least one of them!

Gastdruck: “The exhausting effort of being a good houseguest.”

Leertretung: “Stepping down heavily on a stair that is not there.”

And then there’s my absolute favorite,

Entlistungsfreude: “the satisfaction achieved by crossing things off lists.”

Since my primary purpose in making a list is invariably so that I can cross things off,  I am thrilled to discover not only that I am not alone, but that there is a stately German word for it. I really revel in Entlistungsfreude. The book comes with a pronunciation guide, and you better believe I am looking forward to increasing my vocabulary as soon as it’s published!

Genius German Words(And exactly what does the jawbreaker up above mean? Why, machine to use in sanding your floors, of course!)

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47 Responses to Schadenfreude, and other Genius German expressions!

  1. Welcher entzückender und humorvoller Artikel haben Sie geschrieben. Deutsch seiend, wärmt es mein Herz, um andere zu sehen, Vergnügen von unserer Sprache nehmen!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Gott sei dank fur Google Translate!!!!!
      Vielen Dank für de freundlicherweise Wørter, Emil.
      Nur haben liebe Freunde im Køln aber ich nein spreche die Deutsche weil Our friends speak English much too well!!!!

  2. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I knew of schadenfreude, I think its a great word. German is an interesting language and I wish I’d retained what I learnt back in college. The book sounds like a potential bestseller like Eat, shoots and leaves.

  3. franhunne4u says:

    You know that those “Schottenfreude”-Words are not REAL german words, nothing like Schadenfreude, that has been around for centuries. Zeitgeist is another, that I read quite fairly in the Grauniad and that has been used here in my country and is used still.
    Weltschmerz – though the portuguese saudade embraces that as well – a third of german word immigrants that made it into the English usage.
    Let’s not even start talking about Blitzkrieg or Kindergarten.
    Those are words we Germans use(d) (well, not the Blitzkrieg one any more, for obvious reasons) and are quite astonished to find them in English context.
    Germans LOVE to embrace english words in their language (but those 45 % of Germans who claim not to know ANY foreign language – source: We are not always keeping the meaning, the german word for a mobile phone not being mobile but being “handy” – well, they ARE, aren’t they.

    And the English language with its partly saxon roots has a certain affinity to the “dear old aunt” from which it has inherited. (Haus – house, floor – Flur, Biest – beast and so on). Now that the dear old aunt has some multi-syllable gems to give away, those are taken as well.
    But now I know what I will give a colleague of mine who works as translator for Christmas! Thank you so much for that inspiration!

    • franhunne4u says:

      ok, the last sentence needs clarification – no, we do not work for Christmas – I will get Schottenfreude for him for Christmas!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      I am always tickled by the German use of “handy” for mobile phones. It’s such a concrete image — they’re not only handy, as you say, but you HOLD them in your hand!
      When I think about Weltschmerz, I wonder if that emotion is as widespread as once it was — whereas we all know Schadenfreude is alive and flourishing!
      Our German friends are so fluent in English that in a way it’s discouraged me from learning German, I could never catch up! But as in the discussion with Mrs. Carmichael (which see, for example) every language has its own genius, and unless we try and learn at least a smattering of it, we are missing out on the full range of human emotion and expression.
      As you can tell, I LOVE languages!
      Dankeschoen for coming by and commenting, Fran!

  4. I need a trans for the above.
    And burst out laughing at gasdruck and identified with all the others. I even write things on the list I’ve already done just so I can cross them off.

    Not the same thing at all but I love the Spanish la madrugada (the wee small hours of the early morning) for the same reason.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Hallo, Mrs. C! And Hola!
      I have to confess that I cheat on my lists in exactly the same way! So far, that’s my favorite German word.
      You touch on a pet theory of mine, that every language has its own particular and peculiar genius, and certain things can only be said quite that way in that language. Your “la madrugada” is a very good example.
      Staying with the German (and thanks to Karin of La Pouyette) I wish you Oktobersonntagnachmittagsvergnügen.
      As we say in English, have a lovely day!

      • Touch2Touch says:

        And a PS to you, Mrs. C. As far as Emil the Tin Man’s comment, which leads off here — I use Google Translate as my “cheat sheet.” Earlier translation websites were AWFUL, but this one actually provides something resembling English. And makes it possible to cobble a reply that makes sense.
        Sssssh, don’t tell Emil!
        (PS: Tschuess, a German casual way of saying goodbye, is one of my favorite words. You kind of warble it.) :-)

      • Goodness the Germans have a lot to answer for!

  5. Pauline says:

    My favorite word; Fahrvergnügen. Looking forward to more favorites hidden in that book! Just think how improved our conversations will be!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      What an exhilarating thought!
      We are going up to Amherst for a movie later and I will try to take the “long cut” up there so we will have a Fahrvergnugen. (correct usage, I hope!)

  6. Dear Judith, as a German your post makes me smile! The German “Wörterzusammenfügung” – (to string words together to form/create one word) is particularly liked and used by the administration.
    Here a few of my favorite ones:
    ( 80 letters, – “association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services” (the name of a pre-war club in Vienna) – Not really useful, this word is more of a desperate attempt to lengthen the word below.
    Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän – “Danube steamship company captain.”

    And what about this tongue twister:
    ( 63 letters) “beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law”
    This was a 1999 German Word of the Year, and it also won a special award as the longest German word for that year. It refers to a “law for regulating the labeling of beef”.

    As Mark Twain once said: “Some German words are so long that they have a perspective.”

    Have not heard – so far – about the three words you mention, don’t know from where Ben Schott got them from…..sorry. But love the “Fussbodenschleifmaschinenverleih”!!!!!

    Wish you smiling “Oktobersonntagnachmittagsvergnügen” (an October Sunday afternoon pleasure)!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh, Karin, what a wonderful comment! (Ach so, Karin, wunderbar!)
      Immediately after saying Dankeschoen to you, I will email our friends in Koeln to wish them Oktobersonntagnachmittagsvergnugen. They will doubtless be amazed.
      I am taking a few baby steps here, by using the app Duolingo on my iPad and beginning to learn a little German. I do know lots of (shorter) words, but the grammar of course ist sehr schwer —
      So beginning at a beginning seems logical.
      I think of you and La Pouyette, it must be so beautiful at this time of year, with scarlet and crimson and yellow leaves. Even the melancholy season of November (my birth month, ahem) is probably beautiful there.
      Life has been very busy, and I haven’t been keeping up with even my favorite blogs, like yours. But I hope to remedy that soon. Au revoir, auf wiedersehn, till soon! Judith

      • Pleased that you like my little comment, Judith. Actually – I just made up the “Oktoberso….etc”. It’s not an official word, not in the Duden. But your German friends will be amused, hopefully.

        Here another one which I created years ago being annoyed by continuously paperwork for the administration:
        “Daseinsberechtigungsnachweis” – which means “proof of the right to exist” :)

        Our October here is/was relatively rainy, grey and windy (regnerisch grau und etwas stürmisch) but not too cold, just sehr ‘wetterwechselhaft’ like an April weather – somehow.
        Leaves started to fall rather early this year and now it feels already like November. And then there were lovely sunny days and temperatures raised up to even 30 degrees in full sun. Mother nature is always good for surprises.

        In diesem Sinne – herzlichst, karin

        • Touch2Touch says:

          What an amazing language, to offer you such creative opportunities to make up your own concepts!
          We shall see what our friends have to say in response — it’s okay, because I sent them the blog link to go with the wishes!
          For once we had a really nice October. November is coming soon enough —
          (P.S. I love your Mark Twain quote about perspective —-)

        • tms says:

          Karin’s comment just reminded me of the fun lists we sometimes make before leaving home. It’s either “Haben wir alles: Hut, Stock, Schirm, Gebiss, Ritterkreuz?” (Did we grab everything we need: hat, cane, umbrella, dentures, knight’s cross?) or “Haben wir alles: Personalausweis, Lebensberechtigungsschein, Sauerstoffkarte?” (ID, proof of right to live, oxygen ration coupon?).
          I love this post – your Parkettschleifmaschinenverleih gave me a good laugh, Judith. The picture even shows the Parkettschleifmaschinenverleihschaufensterbeschriftung which I think is a good thing. I have not yet heard the three words from Ben Schott though. I guess that with the title of his book being Schottenfreude, he just made them up, which iss fun.
          Ah, and that you’ve got me talking: Your other illustration sports one of my favourites: “Gedankenexperiment” – well that’s just a thought experiment, but I first heard term in a seminar on Nietzsche so it has a philosophical ring for me, and in an international context it always reminds me that we are (allegedly) a nation of thinkers and dreamers. Whatever that’s good for.

          • Touch2Touch says:

            I have to go out to French class now, so I am going to be sure and check for my Ritterkreuz right this minute!
            Your comment gave me a lot of smiles, Tobias.
            Hmmm, what are thinkers and dreamers good for? Making interesting and provocative comments, among other things, and being good friends! And, from time to time — being visionaries.
            There’s Karin and Fran and Emil and you right here in the blogosphere. And our wonderful friends in Koeln.
            I feel very Glückliche!

  7. purringly says:

    Grüss Gott, gnädige Frau :)
    Ich spreche nur ein bißchen Deutsch. I do like the word Weltschmerz — it means so much, in one word. In my native tongue, we also string words together like that, so I’m no stranger to the concept. Imagine the words you could get in the medical terminology … we even had one with three O:s, one after the other.

    Nowadays, the influx from English is so great, so many young people are starting to separate the words, which really is not good. It sometimes changes the meaning of a sentence. [Kalvlever med kulpotatis, for example, would be written «kalv lever med kul potatis» and that means something else than “Liver of veal with those little round potatoes”.

    The sign in your photo would be golvslipmaskinsuthyrning in Swedish.

  8. Entlistungsfreude! Love it! Now if I can just remember where I put the list! Or remember to refer to it for that matter!!!
    This has got to be one funny book. ;-)

  9. I just bought a new notebook for my ongoing “to-do lists”. I am going to go get it now and write “Entlistungsfreude” on the cover. A wonderful way to make me smile when I think of all those lists hiding within the pages! :-)

  10. Pingback: stringing words » purringly speaking...

  11. Jen Payne says:

    Reading this post gives me great entlistungsfreude because I saw it arrive the other day and was DYING to know what you were teaching us this time! LOVE it! xoxo

  12. Patti Kuche says:

    The verb at the end of the sentence always me to gets. A little Schadenfreude in every long sentence!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      It’s true in Japanese also — until you arrive at the very end of the sentence, the whole thing doesn’t make any sense. But serves a purpose, doesn’t it? if you want to understand the speaker, you have to pay close attention and wait. None of this jumping in to finish off someone else’s sentence, like I’m so quick to do in English! ;-)

      • Patti Kuche says:

        That would rather take care of the interrupters!

        Love that the Fussboden . . .. . above promotes itself as the perfect “Do-it-yourself-System” !

        • Touch2Touch says:

          It’s the Say- it- yourself that’s so hard, eh?
          For me, Fussboden is perilously close to Fussbudget, like Lucy in Peanuts, so it just makes me laugh. Not the desired effect, I think.

  13. J.E. says:

    Ausgezeichnet! Dake dir fur die Artikel.

  14. My sweetie often comments on German’s creativity in constructing words. German was his second language till he moved to Canada. I must be on the lookout for that book soon as I think he would thoroughly enjoy it.

  15. Madhu says:

    I have no knowledge of German but I still find this very intriguing! That book might be a great gift for my husband who does speak a bit of German, but had no idea what that word at the top meant. And Judith, I revel in entlistungsfreude too :-D Cannot imagine life without my lists!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Schadenfreude is a legitimate German word, very old — jealousy of one’s neighbor’s good fortune and subsequent satisfaction at their misfortune being an old, if unfortunate, human trait!
      The others though, including that wonderful entlistungsfreude, may be made up. But wherever they come from, they’re great! ;-)

  16. I knew about Schadenfreude, but had never heard of Entlistungsfreude or the others! I think I need to find a copy of that book!

  17. 2e0mca says:

    When I was a young man war stories in comics invariably had Germans exclaiming ‘Gott in Himmel!’ or ‘Donner und Blitzen!’ and, of course, ‘Achtung! – Spitfeuer’. I do sometimes stretch myself to making a radio contact in German but I wouldn’t claim to be fluent ;-) My most recent brush with German was at the 1940′s weekend at Lacock – a fire vehicle was visiting the event. It bore in gothic script (of course) the legend ‘Freiwillige Feuerwehr Haidenkofen’ or Haidenkofen Volunteer Fire Service :-)

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