Courtesy of our beloved former intern Bridget, I bring you this list of “awesomely untranslatable words from around the world.” Some I’ve heard of (litost, from the Czech, meaning roughly “a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery”), one I’ve used (schadenfreude, naturally), and others I never knew I needed but definitely do (tartle, “the act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name,” which comes courtesy of the Scots, a linguistically ingenious people who also bring us “to haver,” from that one line in The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” that no one understands).
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think ultimately I have to go with torschlusspanik, the word that roughly means the title of this blog post. The words people use say a great deal about them in a broad sense–about what a culture values enough to discuss or does not–but surely it isn’t merely the Germans who experience torschlusspanik. I find myself lamenting of late that even if I woke up tomorrow as an extraordinary visionary genius, I’m no longer young enough to be a wunderkind (there’s those Germans again). As a teenager, I was sad to discover that I could never be a prodigy at anything, because my parents hadn’t set me on a path to remarkability while I was still in diapers. Torschlusspanik is a sentiment close to my heart.
Which sentiments do you find you could really use a word for that doesn’t seem to exist? Is there a word for being thoroughly disappointed in a thing despite conscious awareness that it’s not in the least worth being upset about? I feel like that would come in handy.