Friday, 26 June 2015

What Is It About Germans And Feelings?

Something that has always intrigued me is that we often have to use German words to describe certain emotions, such as Schadenfreude (SHA-den-FROI-duh, pleasure at someone else's misfortune), Wanderlust (VAAN-duhr-LOOST, a restless urge to travel), Heimweh (HYME-vey, homesickness), Weltschmerz (VELT-shmeyrts, world-weariness) and Weltanschauung (VELT-an-shaoo-oong, worldview or outlook on life).

Recently, I came across this "Dictionary of obscure sorrows", and was once again struck by how many of them were German words.

Click to expand.

I learned German for a few years, and although I'm not very fluent, I can understand the composition of these words. Let me analyse them for the benefit of non-German readers.

1. Sonder (ZONN-duhr): "Special", hence the recognition that everyone is special, not just you.

2. Mauerbauertraurigkeit (MOW-uhr-BOW-uhr-TROW-riH-kyte):
Mauer means "wall". It's related to the French mur, and the English "mural" for wall painting.
Bauer means "builder".
Traurigkeit means "sorrow", with the "-keit" ending corresponding to the English "-ness".
Hence, "Wall builder sorrow", or the desire to keep out even people we like.

3. Rückkehrunruhe (RÜCK-keyr-OON-roo-uh):
Rück means "rear", where the "ü" is pronounced by placing the lips in the position to say "u" and saying "ee" instead, just like the French "u".
Kehr means "traffic".
Rückkehr means "return".
Ruhe means peace, and Unruhe means disquiet or disturbance.
Hence, "Return disquiet" refers to the dismay at forgetting one's travels after returning home.

4. Altschmerz (ALT-shmeyrts):
Alt means "old".
Schmerz means "pain".
Hence, "Old pain" means weariness of suffering through the same old issues you've always had.