May 12 2015


fremdschämen (German). “This is what occurs when you are embarrassed for someone who ought to be embarrassed for himself, but isn’t.”

From Douglas Wilson, Whose Ox Is Being Sued

Nov 1 2013


A German word describing an architectural eyesore (literally: “construction sin”). Or, in my opinion, all skyscrapers in any style other than Art Deco.

via Better Than English, which has lots of other neat words from other languages.

Nov 6 2012


My daughter found this word and sent it to me. It’s a German word “kummerspeck” that means “excess weight gained by emotional over-eating” and translates literally as “grief bacon.”

Aug 14 2012

Overheard: teenage girls watching a movie

15 Year Old: She’s not very pretty.

17 Year Old: She’s German. Very German.

Nov 20 2009

Best 4th of July ever

My favorite 4th of July memory happened the summer after I turned 12. We were over at the house of one of my Dad’s friends, a loud German guy named Bob. Bob lived in Kansas, and despite the state’s reputation for flatness, Bob lived on an amazingly steep hill. Both his front and back yards sloped down to meet, forming a small valley for a side yard.

Bob’s adult son, Kevin, was there, and so was Kevin’s friend, Kirby. Kirby was a big, round guy with big, round glasses and he drove a Volkswagen Super Beetle. The two were nearly indistinguishable (not Kevin and Kirby; Kirby and the VW).

This particular 4th of July Kevin and Kirby were setting off M-80s in the side yard valley. What they would do is light the M-80, then put an old Ford hubcap on top of it, and run. The hubcap would fly 50 or 60 feet in the air. It was awesome. I was parentally disallowed to get near for fear I might have fun, so I had to watch from the hill at the front. Anyway, after they had done it about half a dozen times, the Ford hubcap went way up–and disappeared. We couldn’t find it anywhere. They still had a few M-80s, so they had to scrounge around for something to replace the hubcap.

Before I continue, let me set the scene: Dad and Bob are in the basement in Bob’s shop welding something. Mom and all the rest of the kids are somewhere. Kevin and Kirby are in the side yard valley. And out front on the hill are me, and Kevin’s mom Mary. I’m standing, and Mary is sitting in a folding lawn chair, and we’re both watching Kevin and Kirby.

Kevin and Kirby place the M-80 on the ground. Kevin lights it, Kirby covers it with a 2′ cardboard box, and Kevin puts a cinder block on top of the box, and they both run for it.

This next part happened in slow motion:

The M-80 exploded, blowing the box apart in the process. Chunks of cardboard flew in all directions. It looked awesome. But one particularly large piece flew straight at Mary. From her lawn chair she did one of those sideways-action-movie-slow-motion-jumps, complete with the, “Noooooooooooooo!”

Even as I write this post, 25 years after the fact, I’ve literally laughed out loud twice.

Jul 20 2009


German word, pronounced “SHAHD-n-FROID-uh.” The literal translation is “shameful laughing,” and it means laughing at the misfortunes of others, kind of like I do in that story about Timmy’s cough.