German Word of the Week: Pointendichte

Image result for jokes per episode

A few days ago a friend and I, in a state of complete sobriety, were comparing television sitcoms from the 1970s and the present day. The biggest contrast is the frenetic pace of modern sitcoms. The chart above shows how much faster-paced The Simpsons became during its early years. Nowadays, in any reasonably well-written sitcom (I’d cite Archer, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, The OfficeRick & Morty, Brooklyn 9-9, but of course YMMV)*, nary a minute goes by without 10-15 rapid-fire separate jokes. They can’t all be zingers, of course, but as long as the average quality is high enough, it hardly matters: you’re a deer in the headlights of comedy, dazzled and delighted by a remorseless cavalcade of whimsy!

I consider this progress: Using bleeding-edge humor techniques, TV writers now give us 3 times the laughter for the same amount of money and time. And believe it or not, German has a word for exactly this: Pointendichte. You pronounce the first half of the word Frenchified: “Pwanten”; the second half is the German word for “density”. Pointe (g), obviously a loan-word from French (let’s hope they don’t ask for it back, baDUM-tss), doesn’t mean joke, strictly speaking, more like a witty observation or clever jab. But that’s splitting hairs. So Pointendichte literally translates as “joke-density”. But sounds much classier.

English should consider adopting this word. It will be a hard sell because it’s not easy to pronounce. But still, it’s a crisp, efficient, and stylish way of describing something that doesn’t have a word in English.

And to end this post, my favorite joke — or Pointe, if you will (and you will) — from The Simpsons:

* I’d cite some German examples, but German sitcoms are — well, to quote Gibbon, “the humanity of the reader will permit me to draw a veil over the rest of this infernal description”. The word is also often used to describe German “Kabarettisten“, which are something between a stand-up comedian and a monologist, often with a bitingly satirical political element.

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