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