Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition, by Ben Schott

I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, to review on behalf of the publisher. It will be published 31 October 2013.

After reading Ben Schott's hilarious Schottenfreude, I started to wonder if there's a German word for discovering that there's a word for one of your own weird little pleasures, mental tics, and irritations. If not, someone needs to coin one immediately, if not sooner. Years ago, my friend Deb gave me a copy of Ben Schott's Schott's Original Miscellany, which I still have because it's a damned useful and interesting little book. I suspect that Schottenfreude's going to end up on the shelf, too, because this is the perfect kind of book for me. In fact, it kind of makes me want to take German up again.

Schottenfreude is a brief glossary of elaborately constructed German words for things like meal envy--envying what someone else ordered--and the unreasonable pain you feel from a minor injury like stubbing your toe. Most of the words are probably unpronounceable unless German is your first language, so that you can make that "cough in the back of the throat" noise. This book also makes me remember that German was the first language of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, the fathers of psychology. The German and Austrian people are a little weird, if you go by their vocabulary.

I had a lot of fun with this book. It's a good thing my apartment is pretty well soundproofed because I'm sure one of my neighbors would come find out what I was giggling maniacally for a couple hours this evening.


  1. Maybe German speakers are just more determined to nail down the ephemeral human experience in words than other language speakers are (I'm looking at you, the French).

  2. The French language is great for emotions that are nearly ineffable, like ennui or malaise or joie de vivre.


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