* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we wonder, just as much as you do, what those odd-sounding compound German words mean. It turns out Lael Gold actually knows. Let me say that name again: Lael Gold. Isn't that a beautiful name? Yes, I thought so too.

There’s A German Word For That

By: Lael Gold

The contents of this article have been tagged as disputed and may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. Please go to the talk page to improve this article if you can. (July 2008)

German Loan Words

The following loan words were borrowed from German and incorporated into American and British English.

Schadenfreude 1. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Sädensäken 1. Pep talk that induces a devastating sense of inadequacy in its recipient. 2. Any encouragement that makes its object feel three inches tall and incapable of simply crossing a room or digesting pablum much less of ever accomplishing anything of merit ever in their lives. Ever.

Animositätfestdiezeit 1. Jubilant if veiled response to the anger of others toward others. 2. Sense of relief that accompanies the realization that rageful individuals are angry at someone other than oneself. 3. Burst of delight felt upon learning of discord among friends.

Fassbucheraschollsindröm 1. Feigned casualness of social networking site posts carefully calculated to garner prestige for the writer and stimulate feelings of inferiority in the reader. 2. Shame that accompanies the sudden realization of one’s own transparent, pathetic and incessant posturing on social networking sites. (The obsolete meinspaäsenposz sometimes also used.)

Autzeiterunbehagen 1. Pained and helpless smirk indicating annoyance at the inside jokes of others, often masked by an anxious half-smile or uncomfortable chuckle.

Gezelfpitieolimpiadengezeit 1. Competition over who has endured the greatest suffering or suffered the greatest injustice. 2. Conversational jockeying to establish who has been most mistreated or misused. (Events in a gezelfpitieolimpiadengezeit range from a low stakes “Who Had a Worse Day” scrimmage to a “Whose Childhood Was the Most Miserable” playoff all the way to a “My People’s Genocide Makes Your People’s Atrocity Look Like a Walk in a Very Well-Manicured Park” championship match.)

Talk Page: German Loan Words

Schadenfreude a loan word? Not so! The loan of schadenfreude, a German term with very real currency in English, Basque and Danish, was forgiven by the Brandt government during the Nixon administration. The ceremony marking the occasion was attended by Vice President Ford and a small coterie of American academics — literature scholars, linguists and a lone biochemist. — Languagebabe22 12:45, 30 September 2008

Languagebabe, allow me to correct you and fill in some details. To wit: At the time of the Vietnam War, in a fit of barely contained glee at the demonization of the United States by the international community, Germany forgave the loan of the word schadenfreude and gifted it to the US. This occasion was marked by a ceremony attended by Patricia Nixon at which Wiener schnitzel was served. Documentation of this occasion abounds. — Nevergoesout71 20:13, 14 November 2008

Languagebabe and Nevergoesout, I beg to differ. Loan of this term to the English speaking peoples is currently in default. — Frau_online 15:00, 23 December 2009

Please delete schadenfreude immediately. I am a professor of Germanic languages and have never heard it. At the outside, the term may be a remnant of a joke circulating in turn of the century Vienna playing on the name of the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis. (See C.G. Jung’s late treatise “Jokes I Really Shouldn’t Repeat but Find Damn Hilarious” later reissued as “Individuation and Dreams.”) — Germanicdepressive 04:32, 3 December 2008

I suffer because of blurred terminology here. How is animositätfestdiezeit not merely schadenfreude by another name? — Helmut-hed 11:24, 6 December 2008

What’s missing here is adequate context. I propose the following addition to this entry: While American netizens have been communicating in ever more straightened circumstances reduced to terms such as “douchebag,” “asshat” and “netizen,” their Teutonic confreres continue to range widely and even expand their native vocabulary, particularly in the area of their own tongue’s expressive specialty — the description of human weakness and failings including the darker sides of human nature and social interaction. — Liesel 18:15, 24 January 2009

Liesel’s remarks seem off point. Only two of the terms mentioned in this entry relate to the Internet. Also, “douchebag” is itself a loan word from the French. — Spandau_jazz_hands 21:05, 30 January 2009

Words missing? I can’t believe this list is complete. — Soundofmucus 14:24, 30 January 2010

Soundofmucus, you’d have to be totally out of touch with the zeitgeist, a kindergartener with the IQ of a schnauzer, to doubt that this list is exhaustive. Any inclusion of ersatz, German-sounding locutions should be strictly verboten. — Wunderkind92 18:40, 1 March 2010

As much as it pains me, I must agree with my colleague Germanicdepressive. Sädensäken, fassbucheraschollsindröm and the rest are fine, but the term schadenfreude is obviously entirely made up and needs to be removed from this otherwise substantive list. Derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others? Who would do that? — Too_tonic2020 13:01, 15 February 2013

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only source for what's happening on television, unless you happen to turn on your television, in which case that would most likely be a better source. Anyway, Matthew David Brozik has the story. And while you're at it, would it kill you to click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda"? Don't pretend you can't find it. It's on the right-hand side of this page.


By: Matthew David Brozik

Viewers of television programming this season will be the most well-read yet, thanks to these new shows!

Napoleon Berkshire, Esq. is the most highly regarded porcine lawyer at the bar — feared and respected by adversaries and clients alike — and known for his thorough preparation. “All arguments are equal,” he’s fond of saying, “but some arguments are more equal than others.” With the passing on of “Major” Willingdon, Berkshire is poised to take the reins of the prominent white sow company…but there’s a hitch. The old Major’s youngest son, Snowball, has just graduated from law school, and he’s been promised a place in his father’s business, despite being an incorrigible party pig. With Napoleon and Snowball fighting hoof and horn over the future of the practice, will they have anything left for the courtroom? The new dramedy to watch is ANIMAL FIRM. (ABC, Mondays.)

[Plus: A mid-season episode will serve as a backdoor pilot for a Lou Grant-style spinoff featuring the firm’s aged janitor with a knack for carpentry who retires to travel the country restoring barns with equine equanimity in THIS OLD HORSE.]

THE NEXT GREAT GATSBY. Man of many talents — Yale graduate, military veteran, bond salesman — Nick Carraway IV spends a week each with different real-life wannabe entrepreneurs-cum-socialites, advising them on such matters as changing one’s name, purchasing a mansion, entertaining, winning the love of a shallow woman, driving, swimming, and choosing the right shirt — or shirts — for every occasion. (CBS, Wednesdays.)

Special Super-Secret Agent “Y” is deep undercover, with just a day to prevent the assassination of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Y has one day — but there’s a catch: The International Super-Secret Agent Union rules mandate two hours of downtime in every 24-hour period… so Y really has less than a full day to work with. Fortunately, he’s a master of observation and interrogation. If anyone can, he’ll put two and two together…to get 22. (FOX, Thursdays.)

The groundbreaking documentary CHIASMUS returns in a new iteration for a new generation! Board the “Ship of the Intimation” to explore a multi-verse of poetic phenomena — from allegory to zeugma. Individual episodes will focus on such topics as large-scale onomatopoeia (“big bangs”), the discovery of foreshadowing and the nature of litotes, microscopic oxymorons, and the (un)likelihood of an omnipotent deus ex machina. (PBS, Sundays.)

NATIVE AND SON promises to be the breakout litcom of the year. Twenty-year-old Bigger Thomas lives in utter poverty on Chicago’s South Side with his father, the irascible Older Thomas. Each week, Bigger tries to improve his situation, taking whatever job he can find, only to be accused of one heinous crime or another…with hilarious results! Not even Older Thomas’s never-ending parade of colorful friends and relatives can keep Bigger out of trumped-up trouble, but he’ll have to continually prove to the authorities and himself that Bigger is better. Based on the British program Wright On. (NBC, Mondays.)

Also much-anticipated is the single-camera, buddy-cop comedy chronicling the misadventures of patrolmen Rom Montague and his cousin Ben as they police the streets of Verona, New York (pop. 6,293). Verona should be an uneventful town, and it would be…if it weren’t for the criminal machinations of the mysterious man known only as “Cap,” who seems to have his finger in everything unlawful for miles around. And of course the young boys in blue don’t know that Rom’s crush, Julie, is Cap’s daughter! Ride along for laughs with CAR XLIV, WHERE ART THOU? (TBS, Tuesdays.)

And, finally, what would television be without a good old-fashioned game show recorded before a live studio audience? Introducing WHO WANTS TO BE AN HEIR? Each contestant has a limited amount of time in which to reconcile complicated, conflicting wills of a wealthy testator…but every mistake costs the estate substantial legal fees! Because of the extraordinary difficulty of the challenge, a contestant has three lifelines to use — “Call a Counselor,” “Poll the Peanut Gallery,” and “What the Dickens?” — but even these will go only so far toward improving a bleak situation. The contestant who walks away with anything more than the clothes on his or her back will have earned it!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we consider it an honor and a privilege to make you comfortable with your inevitable physical decline and decay. Let Michael Fowler be your guide to senescence. As always, we invite you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Something Wonderful Happens When You Turn 95

By: Michael Fowler

Mom and Dad both turned 95 this month, and let me tell you, they’ve reached a peace of mind and contentment that didn’t seem possible only a year ago, when I excitedly predicted both of them would die. What I mean is, Dad at 94 was an emaciated, bleached-out skeleton with sunken pink eyes, no hair anywhere, lips that stretched tight around his face like two thick rubber bands, and a temper like a wet stick of dynamite set on permanent fizzle. A typical 94-year-old in other words, although there aren’t that many of them around, maybe one in a hundred million Americans, or so I assumed. I fully expected him to kick off any minute, because how much older and more decrepit could he get? He turned grumpy as all get-out if he missed his morning Perry Mason rerun on the Senile Network, and a puddle kept forming under his chair, neither a sign of immortality. Mom was no better at that age, physically or mentally — in fact, the two were indistinguishable. Mom complained even when I took the trouble to wheel her to a sunny spot by the window like the overgrown potted plant I thought of her as, and checked her for aphids.

I didn’t blame them for being upset, either. Since the age of 85 or so, they’d both collapsed into a funk of bad health, confusion, foul smells and even fouler moods. Welcome to retirement, we’d told each other joyously years earlier, not suspecting their life of leisure would last anywhere near this long. A combination of luck, good genes, and my dutiful ministrations have managed to keep them going no matter how much they wanted to die, or how much I wanted them to.

They hung on to 95, and that’s when the change happened.

I noticed it the day of the communal 95th birthday party I had for them at home. I got a cake colored bright red from the grocer and put the numeric candles “95” on it. Though technically Dad is a few weeks younger than Mom, I only do one party a year for the two of them. That’s trouble enough, and I doubt they know the difference anyway. Before the cake I served them their standard evening meal of pork and beans and creamed corn straight from the can, when suddenly I thought I heard Mom say something. Bending down to her shrunken level, I thought she said she felt like using a knife and fork, and might even be up to some chewing. Dad concurred, saying he wanted to try the paleo diet, meat and no grains, but plenty of Okinawan vegetables and ginkgo biloba supplements with the protein. Well, you might say I was stunned. Neither had spoken at dinner for a dozen years, unless it was to call me a fat, sadistic lummox. And before I could fry them some chops or dice the Okinawan veggies the way they wanted, Mom said she and Dad had talked it over while I was at work, and maybe they’d try watching some of those modern TV shows that night, the ones in color with actors who were still alive, instead of those archaic black-and-white programs on the Dementia Channel featuring stars dead and buried.

I studied their shining faces. Was it really they who had spoken? I saw tight grins and eyes almost gleaming. Was there still a spirit in those shrunken, desiccated husks of old skin? The facial flesh was so old and brittle, the smiles might have been only frozen grimaces. I had fallen for that once before, thinking there was life when there was only a mask. Ten or so years earlier I thought I heard Al, my dad, ask if I had any porn. He hadn’t said a word. And once after that I thought I heard Marge, my mom, ask for a double vodka with a lime twist. She hadn’t breathed a syllable. Surely the sparks in those dead, discolored eye sockets were only reflections of the birthday candles.

Then Dad said, “I will start life over again as a mover. Using secret ancient Egyptian pyramid-building techniques, I will lift heavy objects and put them down in new places, for a nice price. I will rapidly construct whole cities this way. I will connect them with railroads that I alone will build with a big spike hammer. I will then employ a method, long-forgotten until now, to host biweekly keg parties and car burnings.”

And Mom said, “I will have many babies, favoring those of men who are destined to greatness. An entire generation of magnificent humans will spring from my womb, without my once being unfaithful to your father.”

You could have knocked me down with one of their pocket-sized catheters. Now that they were 95, my parents really did believe they could do those things. And then, as I tossed some lamb chops in a frying pan and unwrapped some Japanese berries, they both apologized for their uncouthness over the last few decades. They told me that coincidentally with turning 95, an age they referred to as a magical milestone, they felt much livelier, and their anger and confusion, which they felt largely stemmed from a diet of talk radio and gluten, had vanished. Furthermore, Marge had found a website dedicated to 90-year-olds on my laptop that afternoon, and proudly announced that there was a whole group of super-oldies undergoing mental rejuvenation at that age that she and Dad jibed with. There were dozens of them out there hot to trot, she said.

I sat down beside them and we joined hands. It seemed like only yesterday we were all sitting around the table looking over nursing home literature and fearing global warming together, but no longer. My parents had decided to forgo death, and along with that made a commitment to clean air and biomass fuel. We all smiled, thinking what the future held. Mom wrote in her pad, “It’s about the planet, not about us, but we’re doing what we want,” and passed the tablet around the table. Dad signed on, and to make them happy, so did I.

Mom continued the new tone by apologizing for all the racist comments she had made in the past. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” she said. “I’m not a racist.”

“That goes for me too, for all those homophobic remarks I used to come out with,” said Dad. He paused a moment, chewing his paleo chop. “But just who are cisgenders, and what do they want?”

It was true. All that hate seemed behind them now. There were those smiles again, and they looked pretty genuine.

“We’re not perfect,” Mom acknowledged. “I can’t sleep at night sometimes, for fear of what dark matter may do to our world.”

“And I still cling to Jesus,” said Dad. “I can’t get with modern atheism, but give me time. I’m working on it.”

The two seem so happy that no one mentions the obvious, that there’s no turning back the clock for them even now, not physically. Marge proved that yesterday by fracturing her thumb, so disfigured with arthritis, trying to open a can of ancestral Vienna sausages, and Al by shaking so badly with hypoglycemia this morning that I could hardly force a candy bar down his throat. They have another year or two tops, I’d say, of blissful happiness inside those horrible, decayed bodies.

That thought must occur to them too, of course, but they don’t show it. Instead they want to know if I’m looking forward to 95.

“I’ll take it if I can get it,” I answer cagily, but is it worth it? Sure, there’s a rejuvenated sense of purpose and rekindled mental vigor, but then there are those little yellow claws they wave at me when I put them in their highchairs.

Who am I kidding? Damn straight I’ll take it.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where getting you out of important social obligations is all we live for. That, and reading something new by Jason Ryan.

Excerpt From “The Anti-Social Monsters Of America Handbook,” Chapter 12: Excuses

By: Jason Ryan

Here, fellow monsters, is the chapter you’ve all been waiting for. We’ve all been in a situation where a “friend” or “loved one” invites us to a social event that we have no intention of attending, and while time-honored excuses like “I’m sick” or “I can’t find a sitter” work on paper, let’s face it: by now your friends have heard them all.

Fear no more! We’ve compiled a handy list of some outside-the-box excuses guaranteed to get you out of anxiety-causing social obligations. So the next time you are confronted with a sentence that begins with the words “Would you like to attend…” and feel the flop sweat forming, remember these three steps: Stop. Drop. Roll.

Stop! Listening to them immediately, it’s a waste of time.
Drop! One of the excuses listed below, and make sure they definitely hear it.*
Roll! Away slowly while avoiding eye contact.

* I cannot stress this enough.

Without further ado, here are some great excuses, officially sanctioned by The Anti-Social Monsters of America, to use in difficult situations. Remember: you aren’t alone! Unfortunately.

1. “There was a bee/wasp at the bus stop/in my car.”

Look, we all hate bees/wasps. Who is going to fault you for avoiding one? This is a foolproof excuse. Go ahead and try it out on a fool! You’ll see.

2. “I couldn’t find my pants.”

What are you going to do? Not wear pants at an important social function?

3. “Tai chi class ran long.”

Have you ever seen those dopes in the park? They go so slow! Classes are bound to run long. If they doubt you are in tai chi class, just do a killer tai chi move* and that’ll show ’em.

* Warning: must know tai chi.

4. Gypsy curse

This is more of an advanced excuse and it involves some rudimentary improv skills, but if you sell it just right it not only works but elicits some major sympathy points, especially if they are racist against Gypsies.

5. “The remedial reading class for adults I take at night is happening at the same time.”

This is a great one because it quickly ends the conversation and is a real NQATQ (No-Questions-Asked-Type Question). “Is he/she really in a remedial reading class for adults?” “Is it rude to ask?” “Maybe he/she is!” “I should just let this slide in case it’s true.” The other person in your conversation will think all sorts of thoughts like these.

6. “My wife!” (said in Borat voice)

Does anybody want to hang out with somebody still quoting Borat in the year 2014, much less want them to come to their party?

7. “I couldn’t make sense of your invitation. It was in Wingdings!”

This only works if you neglected to consult your Union Issued Excuse Handbook before the fact and have an angry “friend”/acquaintance on your hands. They can argue all day long but deep down nobody fully trusts computers. Maybe their invite really did show up on your computer in the Wingdings font. We may never know.

Note: Will NOT work on IT guys/tech dudes.

8. “I am getting married that day.”

This one is great because it doubles as a way of making the other person feel like garbage for not getting invited to your imaginary wedding, and may result in them not asking you to do things at all in the future.

9. “FIRE!”


10. “I am very sorry but due to a hectic schedule and/or the fact that I am suffering from a bit of seasonal depression right now, I don’t think I will be able to attend your function. It just sounds like a bit much for me. I think the world of you and wish you all the best, and I hope you have fun and wish to retain your friendship”

Yeah, admittedly this one is pretty lame and a tad far-fetched but let’s be honest, ten is a lot of excuses. YOU try making ten of these! On my salary! You know what? Forget it. Let’s just make it a “Top Nine” list. Forget this last one even exists, much like your ability to interact with your fellow man. Now, on to the next chapter, where we’ll discuss the finer points of avoiding eye contact with small children and the elderly.