#882: The Germans Have a Word for It

January 29th, 2018

I mean, I’m sure they have a word for it. They have a word for everything. It’s like a whole… language.

I’m sure the German word for it is guttural and 14 feet long. I’m sure it’s made of slapping different word particles together into a monstrosity meaning something like the-anger-of-realizing-your-childhood-joys-no-longer-entertain-even-in-a-nostalgic fashion or the-unthinking-sigh-you-give-at-the-moment-you-learn-a-mother’s-love-is-and-always-has-been-conditional.

I’m sure the French have a phrase for it, something elegant, pithy and too clever by half.

L’appel du vide. L’esprit de l’escalier. La petite mort. Something best sighed through a mist of Gauloises, not like the German sentence-word (which inevitably sounds like a person doing an impression of the noise their car makes in order to give the mechanic a start point on diagnostic).

The “it” in this case is the thing you’re feeling right now. It’s the odd, wintery feeling that anything productive you’re doing on a day is the waste.

The city is gray this morning. It’s an unbending, uniform darkness. If the afternoon burns off a few clouds and a bit of sun peeks through, that will be a diversion. The morning is dark, and made for bed.

It’s snowing a bit. Just a dusting. Just enough to be pretty and fragile. Just enough to slick the ground, so you better be careful out there.

And it’s cold.

But the German word, French phrase or term adopted from Japanese poetic meter isn’t describing the weather. It’s describing the notion that work is a waste today. It’s describing that gut reaction that the most productive thing you could do on a morning like this would involve blankets, piping hot coffee and staring aimlessly out a window from your favorite chair.

It’s beyond laziness, or beyond a snuggly morning. It’s the notion that getting out of the house, hauling down train lines or into eternal traffic is not only an inconvenience but, on a day like today, a bad thing.

Today is a day for rehab. It’s a day for light breakfasts and lingering, hours-long dinner preparations. It’s a day to let minds wander to odd and silly places, not one for commutes, meetings and quarterly earnings projections.

But paying rent and not starving to death are pretty nice, so off to work it is.

Home can be confining some days — stir crazy, cabin fever or other terminology where English is actually the language that built the best turn of phrase. But sometimes when the world is a uniform gray and the blanket is folded on your favorite chair by the window, there’s a feeling we all know, even if we don’t have a word for it that’s 14 feet long.

Read about English’s two words for smell

Nouns of assemblage we should adopt

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You are currently reading #882: The Germans Have a Word for It by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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