Feb 032018

This article from AlterNet is by Liz Posner.  She is a managing editor at AlterNet. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, Bust, Bustle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. You can follow her on Twitter at @elizpos.  Although I did go through the motions of reprinting it, I don’t seem to have picked up all the credits, so I am making sure to put them in manually.  As TC says so well, “It is not our intent to violate anyone’s proprietary rights.”

When I set out to research the German words that capture what it feels like to be an American living during the era of the Trump administration, I didn’t expect there to be so damn many.

Like many of my fellow citizens who have flocked to therapists’ offices over the past year, eager to sort through their trauma at being governed by a narcissistic megalomaniac, I was already aware that the current political era was doing something strange to my psyche. But it can be hard to pin down exactly what these emotions are, if words for them even exist.

It was one particular moment of schadenfreude (as I laughed at Steve Mnuchin’s wife revealing her true self on social media) that got me wondering: what other gems of the beautiful German language could help me diagnose the rollercoaster of emotions one feels during a typical day in Trump’s America? There’s so much relief in having a name for these feelings of fear, paranoia and anger, after all. Here are a few, for starters.

1. Fernweh 

Fernweh, or “distance pain,” is like the opposite of homesickness. It’s the feeling of wanting to be elsewhere, anywhere but where you are at this moment. The Fernweh many Americans feel today is a bit like wanderlust, minus the glamour and with the added fear that you may be harshly judged as an American traveling abroad in the time of Trump.

2. Weltschmerz

Weltschmerz translates literally to “world pain,” and boy oh boy, does that say it all. It’s the state of weariness one feels at the state of the world. Some of us may have felt a constant state of Weltschmerz since Nov. 9, 2016.

3. Kummerspeck

If your state of Weltschmerz has been really getting to you, it’s possible you’ve put on a few extra pounds of Kummerspeck, or literally, “grief bacon.” Know that you’re at least in good company: last year, Barbra Streisand, Judd Apatow and others complained they’d gained a “Trump 10” in the months following the election. Eat your feelings, indeed.

4. Kuddelmuddel

This wonderful heap of syllables evokes chaos or a hopelessly messy, unstructured state. Sounds like the White House as told by Michael Flynn.

5. Fuchsteufelswild

This is a state of unfiltered, primal rage. You may have felt it over the past year while listening to any White House press conference, hearing Trump describe Haiti, El Salvador and many African nations as “shithole countries,” seeing the president troll Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on social media…or really, any time at all.

6. Fremdschaemen

Ever felt ashamed on behalf of a member of the Trump White House? Like the time Kellyanne Conway told Fox viewers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff”? Or when Trump claimed his inauguration speech literally made the clouds part and the sun come out? That’s Fremdschaemen.

7. Backpfeifengesicht

In German, this means “a face that deserves to be punched.” Insert your own joke here.

There seems to be something about this – Resident – that makes people feel that their own language is just not big enough to describe his awfulness.  While Liz is turning to German to expand her vocabulary, Germany seems to be turning to American English to do the same.  A couple of examples:

So I invite everyone, especially Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, to have some fun expanding out vocabularies this week.  Sometime one simply needs to have a little fun.  (But, Furies, if you get bored, you can always go check out those fitness trackers.)

Cross posted to Care2 HERE


  8 Responses to “7 German Words That Perfectly Capture the Feeling of Living in Trump’s America”

  1. How interesting a post, Joanne!!

    I’ve thought about Fernweh personally, glad that I’m not alone. Sadly, I can’t afford to move, nor go anywhere. I don’t even have a passport, darn it!
    #5 and #7 would be my favorites, but they (to me), are ALL excellent words to use, about 30x’s a day re: dt.

    Scheißhaufen also is good, meaning ‘pile of sh–‘
    Scheißkram = meaning ‘utter contempt…’

    I am sure that the Furies are familiar with these words too, on an everyday basis.

    Thank you, Joanne for posting.

  2. I can quite understand why someone would look beyond the English language to find words for the feelings they experience living through the Drumpf administration. Or “trying to survive”, which would be more appropriate for some.

    I myself fall back on my own language for which I try to find an appropriate translation in my comments. Only last week this was the Dutch phrase “plaatvervangende schaamte”, for which I could only find “embarrassed”, but Liz Pozner now has given me the elegant German equivalent in one word: fremdschämen. I do that quite a lot, on behalf of many Americans.

    But I haven’t got any words at the ready to expand vocabularies with. Actually I see them quite a lot, but I forget to jot them down and so I further forget. If I see any – perhaps even in Aussie slang – this week, I’ll be sure to note them here.

  3. Great piece, JD. 24


    (Vaseline) What you need for your arse in a Republican Reich!

  4. It’s an old joke, but …

    “Say, do you know what the German word for “schadenfreude” happens to be?”

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