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  • Nancy Mendelson

Finding the Right Words

Have you ever been “in a mood”? You know…that ill-defined feeling of wanting to slap someone senseless for no apparent reason, despite the fact you are normally an empathetic, compassionate optimistic, non-violent human being.

I was so there, up until a few minutes ago when I decided to consult Dr. Google to see if there was a word to describe it and possibly unpack for this week’s column. And that’s when I discovered the founder of Fluent in 3 Months, Benny Lewis, “Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author,” and his article 13 Badass German Words We Really Need in English.

One Language sets you in a corridor for life.  Two languages opens every door along the way

“You know that moment when you can’t find the word to describe what’s happening? Or how you feel. It can be pretty frustrating, right?” says Benny on his website. “Learning a new language opens the doors of communication in more ways than one. The word that describes the emotion you’re feeling may actually exist––you’re just searching for it in the wrong language.”

And there it was: Backpfeifengesicht – a Face that Needs to be Slapped. "Is there someone you know whom you find to be insufferably smug? Maybe every time they open their mouth your palm itches as you feel an uncontrollable desire to slap them silly. That’s Backpfeifengesicht.”

WOW! Thank you, Benny! I feel so understood!

Among the other 12 badass German words, I was familiar with and have used, Schadenfreude – Taking Pleasure in Someone Else’s Misfortune. The rest of the list includes…

  • Fernwehthe Feeling of Wanting to be Somewhere Else

  • Fremdschämenthe Shame You Experience From Watching Another’s Humiliation

  • KummerspeckExcess Weight Gained from Emotional Eating

  • Torschlusspanik the Fear of Time Running Out

  • Weltschmerza Feeling of World Weariness

  • VerschlimmbesserungMaking Things Worse than they Already Are

  • Waldeinsamkeitthe Feeling of Solitude

  • MutterseelenalleinAbsolute Abandonment

  • SchnapsideeA Crazy Idea

  • FeierabendA Cause for Celebration!

  • SprachgefühlA Natural Talent for Language

I mean come on, who among us is a stranger to Kummerspeck – Excess Weight Gained from Emotional Eating!!!

“Understanding why and how languages differ tells about the range of what is human,” said Dan Jurafsky, the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor in Humanities and chair of the Department of Linguistics in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford. “Discovering what’s universal about languages can help us understand the core of our humanity.

Unpack it on hertelier with nancy mendelson
“Discovering what’s universal about languages can help us understand the core of our humanity.”

So next time you’re in a mood and can’t find the right word to describe it, chances are it exists in another language, which means that, as humans on this planet, there is more that unites us than separates us. And what could be more Feierabend than that!

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