German Word of the Week Outsourced

…to the inestimable Futility Closet, a blog that does one thing perfectly:

  • Feierabend: a festive frame of mind at the end of a working day
  • Drachenfutter: (“dragon fodder”) a peace offering to a wife from a guilty husband
  • Fachmensch: a narrow specialist
  • Fingerspitzengefühl: (“fingertipfeel”) intuitive sensibility, confident sureness of touch
  • fisselig: nagged and flustered to the point of incompetence
  • pomadig: “like hair oil,” able to slip through difficulties
  • Verschlimmbesserung: an intended improvement that has made things worse
  • Stammplatz: a favorite usual spot, as a table at a café
  • Torschlusspanik: (“gate closing panic”) fear that time is running out to act
  • Zivilcourage: courage to stand up for what is right
  • Zwischenraum: the space between things

The contraceptive pill is the Antibabypille. “I can understand German as well as the maniac that invented it,” wrote Mark Twain, “but I talk it best through an interpreter.”

7 thoughts on “German Word of the Week Outsourced

  1. Fisselig means fiddly and pomadig means sluggish.

    “Unfortunately,”pomadig” has nothing to do with “Pomade”. And I’d forget the newspapers and invest in a monolingual German dictionary.

    pomadig. (umgangssprachlich, figurativ, veraltet) = träge, langsam, bequem, nicht aus der Ruhe zu bringen.

    Ist laut Wahrig von dem Polnischen “po malu” abgeleitet, was “allmählich” bedeutet.”

    As always, LEO is your friend.


  2. I never heard “Fachmensch” before. Maybe the word Greg Ross was looking for is “Fachidiot”.

    On the other Hand “Fachmann” means a professional and the term “er/sie ist vom Fach” is even more respectful.

    Zwischenraum, Torschlußpanik an Verschlimmbesserung on the other hand are tranlated well.

    This gives me the chance to mention Christian Morgenstern, who wrote a famous poem (well, famous in Germany), “Der Lattenzaun” that uses the word “Zwischenraum”,- a poem that has it all, neglected artistry, political schemes and emigration to America:

    Der Lattenzaun

    Es war einmal ein Lattenzaun,
    mit Zwischenraum, hindurchzuschaun.

    Ein Architekt, der dieses sah,
    stand eines Abends plötzlich da –

    und nahm den Zwischenraum heraus
    und baute draus ein großes Haus.

    Der Zaun indessen stand ganz dumm,
    mit Latten ohne was herum.

    Ein Anblick gräßlich und gemein.
    Drum zog ihn der Senat auch ein.

    Der Architekt jedoch entfloh
    nach Afri- od- Ameriko.

    The english translation:

    The Picket Fence

    One time there was a picket fence
    with space to gaze from hence to thence.

    An architect who saw this sight
    approached it suddenly one night,

    removed the spaces from the fence,
    and built of them a residence.

    The picket fence stood there dumbfounded
    with pickets wholly unsurrounded,

    a view so loathsome and obscene,
    the Senate had to intervene.

    The architect, however, flew
    to Afri- or Americoo.


  3. Fachmensch is unusual, seems to be quite new to avoid Fachmann, which does not include female specialists.

    Drachenfutter is at least 1950s, like Lemmus said. Never heard someone using it.

    Regardless where pomadig comes from, the translation is not proper. I found lackadaisical (and added it to my vocabulary). It sounds old fashioned, does it make sense? Pomadig for me is always a kind of priggish.

    For Feierabend, my colleagues in UK always use “cob”, which is technically perfect. But Feierabend in Germany also comprises the wonderful (festive?) one or two hours after work you spend with your colleagues and some beer.


  4. Although “Feierabend” literally refers to vespertine festivities taking place after work (and maybe was used in that sense around 100 years ago), the usage of the word has generally been reduced to meaning nothing more than “close of business” at the end of the day.

    It can furthermore have the meaning of “the end of it all”, in a somewhat dramatic, warning context, as in “if you will do this, then it’s Feierabend!”.


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