Why Germans Can Say Things No One Else Can

We’re hugely dependent on language
to help us express what we really think and feel but some languages are better than others
at crisply naming important feelings. Germans have been geniuses at inventing
long or what get called “compound words” that elegantly put a finger
on sensations that we all know, but that other languages require
whole clumsy sentences or paragraphs to express. So, here is a small selection of the best
of Germany’s extraordinary range of compound words. “Erklärungsnot” Literally, a distress at not having an explanation, the perfect way to define what a partner might feel
when they’re caught watching porn or spotted in a restaurant
with the hands they shouldn’t be holding. More grandly, “Erklärungsnot”
is something we feel when we realize we don’t have any explanations
for the big questions of life. It’s a word that defines
existential angst, as much as shame. “Futterneid” The feeling when you’re eating with other people and realize that they’ve ordered something better
of the menu that you’d be dying to eat yourself. Perhaps you were trying to be abstemious.
Now, you’re just starving. The word recognizes that we spend
much of our lives feeling we’ve ordered the wrong thing,
and not just in restaurants. “Luftschloss” Literally, a castle in the air, a dream that’s unnattainable A word suggesting that German culture
is deeply indulgent about big dreams, but also gently realistic about
how hard it can be to bring them off. “Backpfeifengesicht” A face that’s begging to be slapped Generosity towards others is key but German
is bracing and frank enough to acknowledge that there are also moments
when it’s simply more honest to realize we may have come face to face with a dickhead. “Ruinenlust” This word shows German
at its most delightfully fetishistic and particular meaning the delight one can feel at seeing ruins. Collapsed palaces and the rubble of temples put anxieties about the present into perspective and induce a pleasing melancholy
at the passage of all things. “Kummerspeck” Literally, “sorrow fat”. A word that frankly recognizes
how often, when one is deeply sad, there is simply nothing more consoling
to do than to head for the kitchen and eat. “Fremdschämen” A word full of empathy that captures
the agony one can feel at somebody else’s embarassing, misfortune, or failing. A capacity to feel Fremdschämen
is a high moral achievement and is at the root of kindness. “Weltschmerz” Literally, “world sadness”. A word that acknowledges that we are sometimes sad, not about this or that thing, but about the whole basis of existence. The presence of the word indicates a culture
that isn’t forcely cheerful, but takes tragedy as a given. It is immensely reassuring to be able to tell a friend that one is presently lined under the duvet,
suffering from Weltschmerz. “Schadenfreude” We’re meant to be sad when others fail, but German will wisely accept that we often feel happiness, “Freude” at the misfortunes, the “Schaden”, of others. That isn’t because we’re mean,
we just feel deeply reassured when we see confirmation that life is as hard
for other people as it is for us. We can thank German for having so many
of the right words to bring dignity to our troubles and hopes. Learning languages, ultimately,
has little to do with discovering the world per se It’s about acquiring tools to help us get
a clearer grasp on the elusive parts of ourselves.

100 Replies to “Why Germans Can Say Things No One Else Can”

  1. German is way more beautiful and more expressive than English in every regard.
    I'd say English is the 'poor man's version' of German.

  2. was this demonstration that you can speak German? because there is nothing really special about all of these. the thing with perceptions is that Value cannot be measured.

  3. Great lecture as usual! Chinese Logogram has a similar way of interpreting or defining their word/characters; as "馬" means horse, it comes with 2 parts, the 4 dots "丶丶丶丶" means 4 hooves, and rest of the characters is the horse's head with the mouthpiece on it, and the horse's body! It also creates a word in a logical way; as "日" equal to "☉", which represents "Sun" and "月" equal to ?, which means "moon". furthermore, ☉+?=明, it's mean "tomorrow", as we see sun and moon alternate once, that's mean tomorrow!

  4. You can learn languages at any age but you can only get a native understanding or 'feel' for a language when you learn and use it from an early age.

  5. Y'all dropped the ball on this one. It's simply wrong; all languages do this. In spanish we simply respect the integrity of the original words; we don't call the mix a new one. You get 2 more strikes, then I unsub….

  6. Verry funny xD I am from Germany and the most things there are said have a verry different meaning. Example Futterneid is anot that I want Something some other is eating its more that when animals Like dogs dont have enough food, food for 2. Then you would call it Futterneid. Because "sie beneiden das Futter des anderen"

  7. I'm learning German at the moment I love compound nouns and how literal they can be. My favourite word at the moment is Wüstenrennmaus which is German for gerbil. The rough literal translation is running desert mouse – Wüstenrennmaus. This pretty much sums the animal up perfectly for people who have no idea what the animal is.

  8. 2:27 the term "Fremdschämen" can be dangerous. A friend did nearly to break up the friendship to me, when I said it in a context with her. The context was her friend in a fast situation. The context wasnt even her personaly and directly!

  9. Is there a word too to say : "Sorry to the planet ,we have invented the Nazis ." And remember , Germany lost the war but Nazis were permuted through Paper Clips operation to USA where they are still activ in CIA , FBI , NASA , Harvard, Yale ….

  10. Backpfeifengesicht, nördlich von Niedersachsen.. "Hackfresse". Punkt. Kein Mensch in Deutschland sagt Backpfeifengesicht, ausser krankheitsbedingt – Mumps.

  11. If anyone could help with the following I'd be most grateful. I recall two occasions on which I stumbled on a German word that seemed to me to be very useful in that recognition was given to very palpable yet neglected things.
    One is the word German has for the 'feel' or the unique taste only found in a particular location; it's essence perhaps. The other was a word which describes the panic that grips a man of a certain age who senses the imminent passing of his sexual prime and the onset of his becoming old; with the resultant need in him to raise his game, increase his efforts while he still can.
    I do hope I haven't imagined such words!

  12. I think American English has some very cool idioms in itself. I often use those world in my home country's language, because they truly have no parallel.

  13. If only they were easier to pronounce and remember… those almost universal concepts gifted by the german language in a single word would conquer the world. Sadly unless you really try hard (or already have some advantage on the language) they remain out of reach (or out of memory).

  14. These words are not beautiful, they are aggressive or pitiful. All of them is to blame someone, realizing that you will be punished or laughing at some misfortunes, or a combination of them. German mind is dangerous.

  15. Most slavs and other germanic nations like denmark and netherlands can say all of those things as well but it's usually more like a phrase or even the word taken from german and reformed a bit

  16. What a fucking language, learning it only ever brings one joy if you use it as you're learning it, 'ti's a language to be experienced

  17. I'm currently learning german. Such an amazing language. Portuguese is a very difficult language in itself but theres a weird charm behind learning german and its complex compositions. Greetings from Brazil!

  18. Albanian has more and they are actually shorter, spaqina is one used where I'm from, it's a word displaying horniness literally translated to (unfuckedness)

  19. Of corse you can coin the word "Ruinenlust" but it definitely not in use around here in Germany. You could also coin Fensterlust, Bestecklust, Baumlust, Wiesenlust etc. and Microsoft Word would not suggest correction because these words are coined according to the German principles of word formation but that doesn't make Ruinenlust a real word. In some sense, English has compound words too. You might not be able to combine them as freely, as we Germans can, but one could argue that apart from spelling rules, items like "stone wall", dish rag" or "heart attack" can be seen as one word too. The only reason why you can't coin "ruin lust" in English is that people would rather think of the verb "to ruin" (German ruinieren) than of the noun.

  20. „Hä“ is pronounced like hello without „llo“ at the end and with the same „energy“ as „what?!“(when you are confused)

  21. I’m truly impressed with the depth of the German language!
    That being said, I also found myself laughing out loud at many times during this video, e.g.:

  22. How many German operas are there and how many Italian operas are there ? Some languages are softer on the tongue and music.

  23. Three of these translations are a bit odd: 'Not' is need or necessity, not distress, which is Qual; 'Lust' is delight, enjoyment, not excitement, which is Erregung; 'Schmerz' is pain, not sadness, which is Traurigheit.

  24. When I read the title I thought Germans could say the n word and similar other words. And I was surprised to be made to think that because I knew it wasn't the case.

  25. You pronounced the "s" wrong in "Erklärungsnot". It should be like the "s" in "ass", not like the "s" in "as".

  26. We germans just like to use composite nouns/words because it's faster and more efficient. For example, in "explanation distress" just remove the space inbetween and there you go. Spelling is the same, regardless of the space.

  27. 1:22 Luftschloss: Aircastle. Something you yearn for, something you wish for, but are unlikely to get. (Shows a cow riding a wave…. WTF?!)

  28. I'm an spanish speaker, and I've always watched usa videos. It feels really strange to listen to England's english, like your pronunciation "wohd' instead of 'worrrd'

  29. Some of my favourite non-compound German words are "doch" and "ja" as the non-yes word. There's literally no way to translate them into English. And the word achso is also great and captures the feeling of an "aha-moment" perfectly.

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