Posted by: Jack Henry | July 27, 2012

Editor’s Corner: Achtung Baby!

Happy Friday, everyone! I just want to take a minute to thank Christine Estrada, John Thomas, and Jane Gredvig for recommending the Editor’s Corner to co-workers this week. Thanks to you, we have just passed 500 subscribers!

Now, today’s selection is from Daily Writing Tips. The original list contained 25 terms we’ve borrowed from the German language—I’ve narrowed it to 15. (See for the full article.)

The German language has provided English with a huge inventory of words, many of them pertaining to music, science, and politics, thanks to the influence of German-speaking people on those areas of human endeavor. Here are some of the more useful German terms borrowed into English.

· Blitz (“lightning”): used only literally in German, but in English refers to a sudden movement, such as a rush in a contact sport

· Carabiner (“rifle”): an equivalent of the English word carbine, this truncation of karabinerhaken (“riflehook”) refers to a metal loop originally employed with ropes in mountaineering, rock climbing, and other sports and activities but now widely employed for more general uses

· Delicatessen (“delicate eating”): a restaurant or food shop selling meats, cheeses, and delicacies

· Doppelgänger (“double-goer”): in German, refers to a look-alike, but in English, the primary connotation is of a supernatural phenomenon — either a spirit or a duplicate person

· Gestalt (“figure”): something more than the sum of its parts, or viewed or analyzed with other contributing phenomena

· Hinterland (“land behind”): originally a technical geographic term; later, in both German and English, came to connote undeveloped rural or wilderness areas, and in British English has a limited sense of “artistic or scholarly knowledge,” as in “Smith’s hinterland isn’t very impressive”

· Kitsch: something of low taste and/or quality, or such a condition

· Leitmotiv (“leading motive”): a recurring theme, originally applied to music and later literature and theater but now in general usage

· Poltergeist (“noisy ghost”): a mischievous and/or malicious apparition or spectral force thought responsible for otherwise inexplicable movement of objects

· Schadenfreude (“harm joy”): enjoyment of others’ misfortune

· Sturm und drang (“storm and stress”): turmoil, drama

· Verboten (“forbidden”): prohibited

· Weltschmerz (“world pain”): despair or world-weariness

· Wunderkind (“wonder child”): a child prodigy

· Zeitgeist (“time ghost”): the spirit of the time, or a prevailing attitude, mentality, or worldview

And for something completely unrelated—the makings of a frightening vacation from the English Fail Blog (

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