Four Words from German That English Really Needs

Those lovely German words that describe emotional states show a tender understanding of how universally we all screw up. It's comforting somehow to share in a human failing. One almost feels a sense of kinship, a feeling of belonging to the ranks of those who are not superheroes, but normal people who feel a bit overwhelmed and under-motivated.

What they have given us is:


Noun, literal translation "gate-shut panic." We are afraid that time is running out. We don't have enough time left to hike in Katmandu, or learn to sail solo and take to the oceans with nothing but a faithful dog and a good radio. We have left too long our secret ambition to write a novel, and time, which seems to be running faster, has left us behind.


Verb, translation "to make something worse trying to make it better." This often involves not knowing when to be quiet, and continuing to explain yourself long after you should have given up and taken your punishment. There is also an entire use of this verb around the DIY plumbing industry.


Noun, translation "world-weariness." This divine word is a favorite of novelists, who use it to describe the feeling of pathos and unacknowledged sorrow that occurs when we realize that the world will never be as good or as noble as we had hoped. This feeling can swamp us, and turn us inarticulate, but luckily we have music and painting to express weltschmerz when words fail.


Noun, translation "grief-bacon." Yes, we mentioned this once before, but it's so brilliant it deserves a second outing. This word needs no translation, in truth, because we all know exactly what overeating in our grief is all about. Donuts made with bacon crumbles and maple syrup glazed on top should be called kummerspecks.

Thanks to the Germans for sharing their complex and deeply human words, which are a joy to mutter to oneself while shooting dirty looks at colleagues on our blaumachen Monday mornings.

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Dave Child

Dave is the founder of, and has been building websites since the early 90s. He's one of those fortunate people who gets to do what he loves for a living.


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