There Oughta Be a German Word for That!
The Trouble With Franzenfreude

I haven’t posted in a while, due to other, non-Germanic obligations (and sheer mental exhaustion) but there is one thing that has been troubling me that I feel I would be remiss not to point out.

Franzenfreude, as a word (and a concept) is completely misused. 

Per Jennifer Weiner, its inventress: “Schadenfreude is taking pleasure in the pain of others.  Franzenfreude is taking pain in the multiple and copious reviews being showered on Jonathan Franzen.”

Okay, lady, but “Freude” actually means “joy.”  So technically, Franzenfreude means “taking joy in Jonathan Franzen.”  In the words of Inigo Montoya, I do not think that means what you think it means.

If you must hate Jonathan Franzen for the mere reason that he is Jonathan Franzen and receives a tremendous amount of critical accolades for being so (and may I point out, no other male writer is currently receiving said accolades in such tremendosity—which I know is not actually a word, despite being a lady writer), an apter term would be “Schadenfranzen” or even “Franzenangst.”  

After all,  the New York Times only covers authors who use compound German conceptual nouns correctly.

Nachdemlahmjetztwichtig

When something that once seemed outdated and irrelevant to one’s life suddenly takes on a crucial, even profound importance. 

Today’s word was inspired by Rachel Syme, but I will, as always, illustrate with some Nachdemlahmjetztwichtig examples from my own experience:

Joni Mitchell

Once, when my father would disappear into his upstairs cave and put on his Joni Mitchell records, I would run from the house, screaming: “Stop!  Stop!  This is the sound of fruit rotting!”  Now, however, I have experienced disappointment, and loss, and other sad things that Joni Mitchell sings about in her weird high voice, I feel very differently.  I’m still not crazy about Laurel Canyon though.  First of all, it sounds like a porn star.  Second, people get murdered there.

The United States Tax Code

Once, not very long ago, when I was single and had no money, tax time was simple: my mother mailed something in and a couple of weeks later I got a check for $118.  Now, I have slightly more of no money, am married, and I suddenly realize why people get apoplectic about taxes, and why they have to pay them, and who isn’t paying enough, and vote for morons because they promise not to raise taxes.  I don’t mind paying taxes, I just think it would be nice I got something for it, like a PBS pledge drive.  If the IRS sends me a tote bag and a set of DVD’s of their 4 part documentary on the American musical theater, I’ll be happy.

Human Compassion

I think this is self-explanatory.

I don’t usually like to do this, because why combine into one post what you can split into to two and feel like you got more done that day, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the Nachdemlahmjetzwichtig has a natural antonym, Nachdemwichtigjetzlahm, which refers to something that once seemed EXTREMELY crucial to one’s existence and now one can not be bothered to give the smallest shit about.  Behold my examples:

Indie Rock

Not necessarily to listen to, but as a way of life.

Top Chef

How many fucking scallops and plates of lamb in an in an sour orange and mint jus can a person not actually eat anyway?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Let’s just turn it into a theme park. Nachdemwichtigjetzlahm.

Unsolicited Advice for Paul the Psychic Octopus

I don’t only make up pig-German words about modern malaise!  I also write an intermittent column for the Faster Times offering advice to people who will never, ever take it.  I am a productive member of society!

And so, I present to you: Unsolicited Advice for Paul, the Psychic Octopus

http://thefastertimes.com/unsolicitedadvice/2010/07/12/unsolicited-advice-for-paul-the-psychic-octopus/

First of all, I just figured out how to reblog!  Second of all, this is a really fucking good idea.  It’s time for a book club that isn’t just all about ladies in some town you’ve never heard of and their sweet potato pumpkin clubs or whatever.
housingworksbookstore:

The words “book club” and “cool” have rarely appeared in the same sentence, until recently. The Rumpus (www.therumpus.net), the online culture magazine founded and edited by author Stephen Elliott, may have created the first truly cool book club. What’s so cool about it? Well, the books are hip—titles from publishers like McSweeney’s, Graywolf, Melville House, as well as Little, Brown—and members of The Rumpus book club get them in advance of publication, enabling members to feel especially in the know. Elliott described book club members—of which there are currently more than 280—as “a particularly literary group, people who take pleasure in finding that rare gem.” They are also, said Elliot, people who “just want a cool book, in advance, delivered direct to them. Many of the members live in places without a good independent bookstore. They joined the book club because they trust our recommendations.” (via The Rumpus Book Club Draws Savvy Readers to Cool Books)

First of all, I just figured out how to reblog!  Second of all, this is a really fucking good idea.  It’s time for a book club that isn’t just all about ladies in some town you’ve never heard of and their sweet potato pumpkin clubs or whatever.

housingworksbookstore:

The words “book club” and “cool” have rarely appeared in the same sentence, until recently. The Rumpus (www.therumpus.net), the online culture magazine founded and edited by author Stephen Elliott, may have created the first truly cool book club. What’s so cool about it? Well, the books are hip—titles from publishers like McSweeney’s, Graywolf, Melville House, as well as Little, Brown—and members of The Rumpus book club get them in advance of publication, enabling members to feel especially in the know. Elliott described book club members—of which there are currently more than 280—as “a particularly literary group, people who take pleasure in finding that rare gem.” They are also, said Elliot, people who “just want a cool book, in advance, delivered direct to them. Many of the members live in places without a good independent bookstore. They joined the book club because they trust our recommendations.” (via The Rumpus Book Club Draws Savvy Readers to Cool Books)

Falschertodärger

The fury experienced not in the face of death itself, but in the wrong people dying.


For example: Harvey Pekar, Rue McClanahan, and my grandpa are all dead.

Charles Taylor, Omar al-Bashir, and Rush Limbaugh are all still alive. 

Falschertodärger.

Harvey Pekar brought catharsis to underappreciated curmudgeons everywhere.  He had a rare eye for really strange people, and a rarer understanding of the human condition.  He wrote a book about my friend Michael.  He looked like Tony Randall’s meaner, smarter brother.  He was a wonder.  He is dead.

You could very easily make a case the Rue McClanahan was the single greatest comedic actress of her generation.  She wore a kimono and a sweatshirt with shoulder pads like no one else on the planet.  She was unfailingly kind to people and animals alike.  She taught me what I wanted to be like when I grew up.  She had a wicked sense of humor, six husbands, and a cat named Buster Big Balls.  She is dead.

This is my grandpa.  He has his arms around my cousin and me.  I am dressed as a crayon.  My cousin is dressed an an Ewok.  My grandfather owned a butcher shop.  He gave extra steaks and hamburger meat to people he thought needed them.  He loved golf, the Democratic party, the color yellow, and his armchair.  He was the most moral man that ever went into business.  He is dead.

This is Charles Taylor.  He is the former president of Liberia, and a warlord.  He started a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, and the conscription of child soldiers into his army.  This war was undertaken mainly for the purpose of his own enrichment. He had pregnant women buried alive in burning sand.  Allegedly, he encouraged his soldiers—many of whom, again, were children—to cannibalize their enemies, thus adding to the terror.  He is alive. 

This is Omar al-Bashir.  He is the president of Sudan.  For almost ten years, he has perpetrated a policy of genocide, terror, and systematic rape on the indigenous peoples of Darfur and the other southern parts of his country.  He is alive.

This is Rush Limbaugh, a hatemonger and bigot who every day makes a mockery of the principles of free speech.  He spews endlessly spews racist, sexist, and homophobic venom, for no reason other than cynical personal gain.  He has been called the voice of the modern conservative movement.  He has called for resegregated buses, termed the President’s economic program as “reparations for slavery” and told an African-American caller to “take the bone out of you nose and call me back.”  He is alive.

Falschertodärger. 

Auszeitgeistangst

The crippling fear that one’s point of view/interests/authorial voice have placed one firmly outside of the zeitgeist, rendering one’s career a long, frustrating slide into obscurity and irrelevance.

Example #1: You may have heard that there was a recent fracas between the Daily Show and Jezebel, which resulted in a New York Times trend piece, numerous aghast editorials, an open letter from female TDS staffers which sounded suspiciously like when the Taliban make you call home to say that they are treating you well and Allah is great, my friend Emily having a lot of people say mean things to her via Twitter, and blah blah blah blah blah. 

Throughout all this conflict, I realized several things:

1. I have not watched a complete episode of the Daily Show since the 2004 Republican convention, and still think of Ed Helms as “the new guy on the block.”

2. The only thing I know about that lady Olivia Munn is that I have heard from good sources that she is not very nice, which whatever.  I’m not very nice either, a lot of the time.

3. I write stuff on the internet for a living too, but it never occurred to me to write about this, because of reasons 1 and 2 and because I am too busy making up German words for things and writing a version of A Christmas Carol except about Gore Vidal (which is fairly self-limiting in its audience) and therefore, my life and career, while amusing to me, are going NOWHERE fast and oh god I am poor and I will be poor forever and I might as well just have a fucking baby/end it all. 

Auszeitgeistangst. 

And now, your moment of Zen:

Nichtvater/mutter

This phrase was coined in response to a request from my good friend and platonic life partner Nick Jones, who required immediate assistance in defining his relationship to the baby  just born to the mother of Nick’s own daughter. 

Allow me to clarify: Nick has a 13-year-old daughter, born when he and her mother were extremely young (Nick is not old, ladies).  Nick and his daughter’s mother—or baby mama in common parlance—never married, but he is an involved father.  BM has since married someone else, and just had another baby, and Nick is confused as to what to call himself in relationship to her.  He has been referring to the new baby as “my daughter’s sister” but this seems unsatisfying.  And so I have coined a new word for Nick and all those who find themselves in a similar situation:

Nick is this baby’s Nichtvater.  Literally, “Not-Father.”  (Nichtmutter, obviously, would apply to a woman in a similar situation.)

Nichtvater works by subliminally conveying what a relationship is by stating what it isn’t.  Like an Un-Birthday or an Un-cola.  Also, in English, it rhymes with Godfather, which is pleasing to me.

So to all of you newly minted Nichtväter und Nichtmütter, a hearty, hearty Glückwünsche to you all.  May your non-progeny grow strong and mighty, and eventually take over the world in a Reich that will last for a thousand years.

Besessenheithasse

An all-consuming obsession with people, things, or ideas that one genuinely despises.

I read a lot of internet comments, because I spend a lot of time alone and amuse myself by guessing the number of posts it takes for a given thread to descent into total anti-Semitic conspiracy theory mania (see Figure #2) and whenever there is a thread about a “trivial” subject (i.e. not the oilspill or whatever other natural disaster threatens to murder us all this week) there are inevitably a host of self-righteous comments like: “Why should we even care about this person/loser/spoiled bitch?  This person/loser/spoiled bitch is despicable.” 

The answers are simple: A) Ummm…you’re the one who created an account, a user name, and logged in to tell us how much better you are for “not caring” B) If we didn’t all care about despicable people who have absolutely no relevance to our lives, there would be no reality television which I have become convinced is the only thing holding the economy afloat right now and C) Fuck you.  You clearly don’t understand Besessenheithasse. 

Now, onto our examples:

Example #1

This lady, for those of you too enlightened and busy not turning on your air conditioners to watch reality television, is Danielle Staub, from The Real Housewives of New Jersey.  She is a psychopath who likes to spend her time having the scar tissue from her breasts removed, having sex on camera for money, mentally abusing her two daughters, bringing convicted felons to fuck shit up at fundraisers for cancer stricken infants, making cryptic threats to other people’s physical safety like she’s Talia Fucking Shire in the third Godfather movie, and running up enormous bills she can’t pay at Neiman Marcus.  Everyone in New Jersey hates her, but literally cannot (in both the physical and contractual sense) stop talking about her like she is a rogue state that cannot be contained, yet the future of humanity depends on her containment.  In geopolitical terms, Danielle is a nuclear Iran.  Which brings us to a favorite subject of our next example:

Example #2

This man is Abraham Foxman.  He is the head of the Anti-Defamation League.  He hates anti-Semitism.  He has been harmed by anti-Semitism.  Unlike me and most of the other Jews I know, he finds nothing even perversely funny about anti-Semitism.  And yet, Abraham Foxman is completely obsessed with anti-Semitism.  Yes, this is his job, but let’s just say sometimes the job finds you.  Besessenheithasse.

Example #3

This is me, an adult human being.

This is the cast of Entourage.

I HATE Entourage. I hate it more than any other television show.  I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.  I hate it more, than yes, I hate anti-Semitism, which as I have stated earlier, is at least sometimes perversely amusing.  The easy thing would be to do what everyone else in the universe has done, which is to forget that Entourage is even still on the air.  BUT I CANNOT STOP TALKING, IN DETAIL, SOMETIMES TO STRANGERS, about how much I hate Entourage.  If you have the misfortune of speaking to me, I would tell you.  I HATE ENTOURAGE.  Besessenheithasse.

Erleichterunginkatastrophe

Erleichterunginkatastrophe: The sense that one would welcome a giant disaster if would alleviate the relatively minor discomfort one is currently feeling.

Example #1: We don’t have an air condtioner in our bedroom, because our window is ridiculously huge and I have not been able to find a window unit that doesn’t leave a gaping hole.  We live on the second floor with an easily accessible fire escape just outside the bedroom, and it seemed that such an easily broachable portal would make us an attractive target for nocturnal rape and/or murder.  Now, in the sweltering heat of this July (it’s too noisy on the street to open the window) I have begun to think that rape and/or murder might make a nice change.  I mean, it’s not like we’re sleeping anyway.

Example #2: Since the London bombings (5 year anniversary tomorrow) I have been unable to take the subway without nervously scanning the car for who looks the most likely to blow us up, and adjusting my position as necessary.  This is something of which I am deeply ashamed, but I can’t hell.  The war against the implacable enemy of subconscious mind is one we don’t win until we’re dead.  However.  The other day when I got on the subway I was so hungover that I not only tried to figure out if we were about to be suicide bombed, I actually PRAYED we would be.  Anything to stop that fucking headache.  Erleichterunginkatastrophe.

Plötzlichfreundersetzung

As suggested by Emily at thingsiatethatilove:

Plötzlichfreundersetzung: The confusion and anger engendered when a favorite TV character is suddenly and unceremoniously played by a totally different actor, while everyone else on the show goes about business as usual, pretending not to notice.  Especially potent and damaging in young people, for whom this phenomenon can lead to lifelong trust issues, fears of abandonment, and an inability to believe one’s own perceptions. 

Example #1: The classic instance of this is of course, Becky Conner from “Roseanne.”  Seemingly overnight, Becky went from this person:

To this person:

For me, however, the true Ur-moment of Plötzlichfreundersetzung came when Victoria Newman from the Young and the Restless went from this:

To this:

Then, just as suddenly, back to this:

And now, all of a sudden, she is this????  WHO THE FUCK IS THIS PERSON?

She is not blonde, nor does she look like a displeased pumpkin, Victoria Newman’s two most defining characteristics!  I watched the Young and the Restless for 23 years, which I am not nearly ashamed enough about.  I loved the old, blonde, angry squashface Victoria, and I will accept no substitutions. 

Of course, one could go further, and reference the most storied and ancient example of soap opera Plötzlichfreundersetzung, when beloved Denver-area sadsack and suggestible homosexual Steven Carrington transformed from this:

To this:

HOWEVER!!!  Sir Aaron Spelling (knighted by Her Majesty Queen Rachel I of Shukertonia in her annual Birthday Honours) is not a egregious practitioner of Plötzlichfreundersetzung, as he actually bothered to provide the audience with a reason for Steven looking like a completely different person: an oil rig explosion off the coast of Indonesia that burned his entire face off.  In fact, Steven in the hospital under and alias, and is so deformed as to be unidentifiable in his injured state, until his wily Singaporean plastic surgeon (who also played David Lo Pen in Big Trouble in Little China) puts two and two together, uttering the immortal line: “He says his name is Reynolds, but his belt buckle says otherwise.” 

His Lordship Spelling shows similar care with the later replacement of Fallon Carrington, when Pamela Sue Martin:

transmogrifies into Emma Sams:

 Resurfacing after being believed dead in a car crash,  Fallon, we are told, was suffering from severe amnesia, and living under the name “Randall Adams,” an elegant solution that both explains her somewhat changed appearance (and newly acquired British accent) and allows the audience to live with delicious ambiguity.  Is this woman in fact, the “real” Fallon Carrington?  Will the “real” Fallon ever resurface to dethrone the imposter?  And who is to say who is “real” anyway?  Only a master could inject a plotline this patently absurd with such a metaphysical existentialist dilemma.  Plötzlichfreundersetzung, or rather its inverse, at its finest.