Schottenfreude by Ben Schott

Schottenfreude by Ben Schott

I can’t tell you yet where you will find this on the shelf. I was handed it by my Cataloguing colleague to take away and read so I could advise her on it’s likely placement in the Dewey Decimal system. I’m not sure I’ll have an answer for her and we probably won’t have the time for a really good discussion about the pros and cons of various likely shelf number (it’s a Cataloguer thing); what I do know is that I had to share this book – before I go back to work tomorrow!

I spent a bit of time in Germany as a child. And, apart perhaps from Herr Hergeth who used to drive me to work at breakneck speed not stopping for red lights “because they are communist”, I have respect and affection for the Germans. This book is a wonderful celebration of the pragmatism and flexibility of the German language. As the epigraph reads, “the German language is sufficiently copious and productive, to furnish native words for any idea that can be expressed at all.

This slim volume is arranged with three German words per right hand page. The German word is in gloriously gothic font with the phonetic pronounciation below, the English translation and then the xx translation. On the left hand page, for each word, are footnotes which pad out your understanding of the word.

Thus word 7 reads :



Discovering an indecipherable note in your own handwriting


Jerome K. Jerome wrote: “I never could read my own handwriting. There is only one man who can, and he lives with me, and I have insured his life for several thousands of pounds.”

There are oh so many other delicious words. Some of which you want to learn because you know you are going to need them soon :

  • Deppenfahrerbeaugung – the urge to turn and glare at a bad driver you’ve just overtaken
  • Haarmonie – reassuring your hairdresser
  • Mahlneid – coveting thy neighbour’s restaurant order

I can be pretty sure I will have had need of all three of those words before this time tomorrow!

And others that leave you intrigued or bewildered :

  • Gastdruck – the exhausting effort of being a good house guest
  • Luftfahrtorigaminiedersgeschlagenheit – the sense of deflation when your diligently folded paper airplane beaks immediately to the floor
  • Dreiecksumgleichung – when two friends you’ve introduced form a new friendship that excludes you

Borrow the book, once it has been catalogued, and see if you can tell me what these words mean :

  • Einsiedelei
  • Geheimgangsverlockung
  • Buchadlerauge
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