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~ Schottenfreude ~

Ever thought, “There should be a German word for that?”

Well, now there is.

Schottenfreude offers 152 neologisms for the human condition


For in which language but German could you construct le mot juste for:

· A secret love of bad foods

· The inability to remember jokes

· Sunday-afternoon depression

· The urge to touch wet paint

· The glee of gossip

· The loneliness of cooking for one

· Delight at the changing of the seasons

· The compulsion to hoard

· Or the joy of perfectly slaked thirst?​​

“Hugely inventive … Pleasantly pre-Web – a self-enclosed thing that rewards another, older kind of multitasking: reading, laughing, and learning.”

— The New Yorker

“Ben Schott's lexicon of Teutonic definitions is a work of brilliance. His first smart trick is to identify a condition. The second is to render it as ideograms. The third is to back it up with learned footnotes.”

— The Times

“Elegant and illuminating.”

— Wired


Fanciful though many of Schott’s compound nouns might be, there are some that spring from real insights into feelings that many of us will recognise. Coming across these in Ben Schott’s list, one thinks: yes, precisely; that is exactly how I feel; that is precisely how it is. And one then feels a certain envy for the German language’s ability to express so accurately feelings for which we simply have no English term. And then one begins to think about the issues to which these words give rise, and what these words say about our world.”

— Alexander McCall Smith

The Scotsman

“One of the most entertaining language-themed books of 2013, Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude, begins with the proposition that ‘the German language is sufficiently copious and productive to furnish native words for any idea that can be expressed at all’ and ends with Mark Twain’s witticism: ‘These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions.’ In the middle, there are some real gems.”

— The Guardian

“A fascinating tour of states of being such as ‘when two friends you’ve introduced form a new friendship that excludes you,’ “total confidence that a newly opened restaurant is doomed to fail,’ and “anxiously patting every pocket to located a vital document you had just moments ago.’.”

— Boston Globe

“Schottenfreude really is the perfect gift for the hard to buy for — there must be a word for that, somewhere, surely?”

— The Sydney Morning Herald

“Of all people, a Brit who doesn’t speak any German has written the best and most enjoyable book in the German language in a long time.”

— Die Presse

~ Eric Nathan · Missing Words ~

In January 2021, the composer Eric Nathan released release the world premiere recording of Missing Words (2014-2021)  — an 84-minute, six-part magnum opus  inspired by the neologisms in Schottenfreude.

The pieces were performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the American Brass Quintet, cellist Parry Karp and pianist Christopher Karp, the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Neave Trio, and Hub New Music.

As Robert Kirzinger, Director of Program Publications of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, wrote in the album’s liner notes:

“Already possessing a strong compositional technique and a large toolkit of resources, Nathan frequently found himself developing new tools and sounds to translate into music the commonplace or surprisingly subtle ideas behind Schott’s linguistic constructions. …


At times we’re asked merely to notice something — the way some physical action feels, the way it affects our mood. Other pieces are one-liners, a nudge to the ribs, while others, perhaps unexpectedly given the tiny kernel of their origins, expand and reflect upon much bigger phenomena of human experience.”

​It is no accident that English turns to German in times of emotional turmoil. From Angst to Zugzwang, the German language has a proven ability to express the inexpressible. In part, this is because German can create compounds that don't sound as mimsy as some English puns.


But there is also something about the language of Freud, Nietzsche, Goethe, and Schopenhauer: a seriousness tempered by humanity; a weight that is not burdensome. German has profundity, formality, and sesquipedalian magnificence. Also, who doesn't like an umlaut?

Each word is supported with detailed philosophical, literary and scientific footnotes which illustrate that the sensations in Schottenfreude are all utterly human.

For example, you might think that “Pretending you haven’t been accidentally spat on” was something that happened only to you. But footnotes for the word “Speichelgleichmut” (#40) show that Louis XIV and Samuel Pepys experienced the same thing centuries ago.

Equally, when you take “pleasure in a cool pillow” (Kissenkühlelabsal · #120) – you can be reassured that the same pleasure was described by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Marcel Proust.

And if you are thinking of “Bestowing nicknames on your sexual parts” (Verschniedlichung · #88), you are following in the footsteps both of D.H. Lawrence and the fans of Justin Bieber (who named his manhood “Jerry.”)

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