2014 Faves10 fabulous German words with no English equivalentTyler Vendetti

It’s the end-of-year, time-for-reflection time and we’re thinking back to all the HelloGiggles stories that we (and you!) truly loved in 2014. Here’s just one of our faves, which was originally published on May 15, 2014.

This past week, I journeyed to Berlin, Germany with one of my best friends in an effort to avoid the utter sadness that comes with the impending conclusion of my study abroad experience. Despite not knowing a lick of German (my apologies to every person that had to endure my not-so-impressive hand gestures and aggressive pointing), the trip was a success and we both left feeling more cultured and a little more appreciative of our English-speaking countries. That’s not to say the German language is unpleasant. In fact, there are a handful of fantastic German words that describe life more perfectly than any English word could. For example:

1) Weltschmerz (n.): mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state

They say that the grass is greener on the other side, but it’s that kind of mindset that causes the grass on your side of the picket fence to look gray and infested with earwigs. Which is to say, comparing a perfect situation to the real life scenario is bound to land you with severe case of weltschmerz, a word used to describe the disappointment you feel after watching the inevitable destruction of your unrealistic expectations. (Thanks for that, every Disney movie ever.)

2) Kummerspeck (n.): excess weight gained from emotional overeating

One can always count on the Germans to be literal and they do not disappoint with kummerspeck, the exact translation of this phrase being “grief bacon.” As in, “I bombed that test on vegetarianism so badly, I need some bacon to cure my grief.” Other possible food substitutes include candy, ice cream, tubs of cookie dough, bathtubs of cookie dough, and carrots, for all you “healthy” stress eaters that put the rest of us to shame.

3) Torschlusspanik (n.): the fear, usually as one gets older, that time is running out and important opportunities are slipping away

Picture this: you’re 26 years old. You’re living with your parents and struggling to maintain the underpaid assistant job, meanwhile, your best friends are landing CEO positions and securing future husbands. Nothing is happening according to the 5-year plan that you made during your senior year of college, and you can’t help shake the feeling that someone accidentally clicked “fast forward” on your life. That particular type of desperation is known as torschlusspanik, meaning “fear of the gate closing.”

4) Fremdschämen (n.): the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are

The only thing worse than being in an embarrassing situation is watching someone enter an embarrassing situation and being powerless to stop it. Grandparents and sitcom characters are usually the worst offenders of obliviousness and the most likely to evoke fremdschamen, or the cathartic sense of pain you feel witnessing another person make a fool of themselves.

5) Backpfeifengesicht (n.): a face that cries out for a fist in it

Rather than try to explain what backpfeifengesicht means, I’ll instead provide a list of people that might possess a face that’s just asking to be punched:

-       Teenagers who complain about “terrible” Christmas gifts they got, like cars.

-       People who tattoo their significant other’s name across their face, or anywhere.

-       Disrespectful bros.

-       Whoever started the “felfie” trend.

-       People who eat hamburgers with a fork and knife.

-       Hitler.

6) Erklärungsnot (n.): the state of having to quickly explain yourself

Erklarungsnot refers to the exact moment you are caught with your hand in the cookie jar and forced to explain yourself with only a split second to think. Unless you’re a good liar, the results of erklarungsnot are usually unbelievable and silly, like “my dog ate my homework” or “I didn’t know streaking through the grocery store was illegal!”

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  • Discordia

    Hi. “Torschlusspanik” has a historical background. Medieval German towns closed the gates at nightfall. And unless you were really important (or willing to bribe the guard) you had to wait until sunrise to get in or out. So everyone who is running in order to get through the city gates before nightfall is experiencing Torschlusspanik.

    I have some more for you. “schmerzfrei” =f ree from pain. In the dictionary, you’ll find the literal sense “with this medication the patient is schmerzfrei” . But Germans are using it in another way. It’s a charakter trait. A person who is “schmerzfrei” is completely disregarding other peoples opinions or fears and gets something done – often the quick and dirty solution. The person who is “schmerzfrei” is not oblivious. He choses to ignore. He doesn’t give a damn about what other people think or talk. Gossip can’t hurt him. This can be a goot trait. It makes you immune to bullying. But it can be disastrous if you are schmerzfrei regarding majority opinions about workplace safety or traffic regulations…

    Natural enemy of the schmerzfreie person is the “Bedenkenträger” (lit. carrier of concerns/objections.) A person who is super careful and always thinks everything through three times before starting to work.

    Also a “young people word” is the “Merkbefreiung” or the adjective: He is “merkbefreit”. That is “freed from noticing”. It’s a running gag. A meme. Originated from german internet-chatrooms and forums but taking hold in everyday Language. A “Merkbefreiung” is a fictional document. It can be issued by anyone. It declares that the person holding it is mentally incapable of noticing all the lines he or she crossed. “Der ist merkbefreit” is a recommendation to sigh, keep calm an put the person in question on your ignore-list.

  • http://www.jonathanschmid.de/ Jonathan Schmid

    Anstandsrest – Leave a bite for Miss Manners

  • Zennoby

    I’m sure it has been pointed out: your idea of what Kummerspeck means is DEAD wrong. It is the fat (Speck) you accumulate bc. you have Kummer (are sad, worried) and are over eating.
    Btw: If you use a German noun in an English text, the convention is to capitalize it.

  • http://llefieerygd.com Tori

    Gee whiz, and I thuoght this would be hard to find out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=521781666 Urs Mike Scharnowski

    One great German word which has not been mentioned yet is “Feierabend”. The literal translation would be celebration evening. It means to enjoy the evening after a hard day’s work, like having a beer – a so called “Feierabendbier” with their co-workers

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=809545883 Shelby Smotherman

    Gesamtkunstwerk – “a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so”
    Exact definition courtesy of google. This concept is seen during the beginning of method acting and naturalism in theatre.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590504923 Sugin Ong

    Another knowledge related one – Bildungslücke! It literally means knowledge hole… meaning someone is missing a piece of information that seems a must for a person of his age.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003920444120 Lisa Müller

    I’m german and I didn’t know the words ‘ Treppenwitz ‘ and ‘Handschuhschneballwerfer’ exists. :’D
    Btw: Nice post and very exciting comments! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002236667789 David Edgar

    Durcheinander….. For which there is no English equivalent …. But a perfectly good northern Irish word …. Throughother….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=522727664 Beth Coon

    Schadenfreude – Happiness at the misfortune of others

    Avenue Q- Schadenfreude (with lyrics): http://youtu.be/5isHw02S0Cg

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743413764 Rothko Hauschildt

    anyone mentioned “schadenfreude” yet?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003346013619 Rochelle Quetzalcoatl

    “Kummerspeck” actually describes the weight (“Speck” is another word for “fat”) you gained after a time of grief (“Kummer”) and over-eating. It’s not the “bacon” you can buy to eat!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000357967541 Justin Shrum

    Urlaubsvorbereitungstress – this defines how serious Germans take their vacation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1209906555 Anja Cashwood

    My favorite German words which has no equivalent is “Ohrwurm”, bacause I suffer from it almost everyday. It means that you have a song stuck in your head and you cannot get it out for a very long time. The exact translation would be “earworm”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1567320436 Hari Iyer

    This post makes me want to learn German

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563405089 Ania Tassinari

    Reisefieber – travel-induced anxiety; worrying about forgetting to pack something important or turn off iron / water / lights; a mix of anticipation, excitement and worry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767708247 Kali Darling

    Fernweh: feeling homesick for places you’ve never been

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1814565918 Jen Ni

    My friends and I just once explained “Sahneschnitte” to a friend from Australia. If u translated it one to one it would mean ” cream”(Sahne) and “a slice of bread”(Schnitte) ;) They use it here to explain that a girl looks nice/ hot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001314838655 Harriet Broomfield

    “Zusammengehörigkeitsgefuhl” – the feeling of being together

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3228987 Hilliary Powell

    “Vorfreude”- the joy of anticipation

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