10 German Words That Don't Exist In English
The English language is a complex and wonderful thing, but there are some occasions when it just doesn't cut it. So what happens then? What do you do when there's something you want to express but you just can't find the word for it... because the word doesn't exist at all in English! Angst, Deli, Autobahn, Blitz... when we don't have a word in English, we've on more than one occasion stolen one from the Germans. It's when you come across these untranslatable words that you have to ask yourself, is English better than German?
Since language is changing and developing all the time, who's to say we shouldn't take a few more words? Language is a tool which we can use to express ourselves, a plaything we should use to entertain ourselves and, I'm sure you'll agree, the words listed below could help us to do just that.
As well as harking on about words which don't exist in English, I've also included a few German words in a couple of text boxes at the sides - words which, although we do use them occasionally in English, are still not widely understood.
Schadenfreude - The joy you feel because of someone else's misfortune. Whether that be laughing at someone who's fallen over, or someone you don't like getting passed over for promotion, let's be honest - we've all felt it at least once.
Zeitgeist- Quite literally, 'the spirit of the age'. The defining mood of a period of time, best described by the ideas and beliefs prevalent at the time.
10 Words the Germans Have Which We Don't
- Weltschmerz - Literally 'world pain'. The sadness or pain that you feel when the picture of the perfect world you have in your mind doesn't match up with reality.
- Torschlusspanik - Literally 'door close panic'. The panic you feel when it suddenly dawns on you... you're getting older and you haven't accomplished all that you wanted to in your life - the doors of opportunity are closing and there's not a thing you can do about it.
- Drachenfutter - Literally 'dragon food'. The gift you buy your wife or significant other when you've done something wrong, either staying out getting drunk with the guys or accidentally running over the cat, it's the gift you buy to appease the 'dragon'.
- Kummerspeck - You've eaten the comfort food so now you've got to live with the 'grief fat' (or 'grief bacon' as it is more literally translated.) 'Kummerspeck' is the weight you put on after a prolonged period of comfort eating, for example if you should put on weight after a break-up.
- fremdschämen - 'Fremd' can have a lot of meanings - foreign, strange, external... and the list doesn't end there. 'Schämen' can only mean 'to feel embarrassed or ashamed'. So, what do you get when you put it all together? The feeling of being ashamed on someone else's behalf, whether it's your drunk friend who's absolutely making you cringe, or a celebrity who should have quit while they were ahead.
- Handschuhschneeballwerfer - We've got wimps, yellow bellies and scaredy-cats. Well, this is a German alternative - the 'glove snowball thrower'. Everyone knows gloves are for the faint of heart but frostbite is for real men (and women), right?
- Treppenwitz - Literally 'stair joke'. The retort you think of as soon as you've left the room, or maybe a few hours later leaving you thinking 'now why couldn't I have thought of that then?!'
- Backpfeifengesicht - We all know one of these - a face that begs to be slapped.
- Vorgestern and Übermorgen - Although not as amusing, these are perhaps the most useful of all of the words on this list. Respectively they mean 'the day before yesterday', and 'the day after tomorrow'. Saves a lot of time, doesn't it?
- Geisterfahrer - Although it literally means 'ghost driver', this is a word used for someone who's driving on the wrong side of the road. It's a term you'll most often hear on the news or muttered in worried tones by someone driving a car.
So what do you think? How about you try slipping a few of these into an everyday conversation? I don't guarantee you'll be understood, but you'll certainly sound intelligent.