The German language is interesting. I haven’t studied it, but I’ve read an interesting fact about it somewhere or heard about it in a movie I believe. There’s an astounding number of words in the German language that not only describe compound nouns, but also convey complex feelings, intricate thoughts, and absurd situational humour!
Take this word for instance – Backpfeifengesicht. Literally translated, it refers to a ‘face that should get a slap that whistles across the cheek!’ They don’t leave much to the imagination, do they?
My sudden interest in the language stems from a slightly tangential question though. What if the art of communication was as easy as using one word to convey the emotion at hand? Wouldn’t that make life easy?
To understand this a bit better, let us imagine a super-fictional scenario in a random guy’s life.
Please note the fictional and random aspect here. Very important.
So, his work goes on as usual. Business is booming, and the cash is flowing right in! There is nothing terminally wrong in his personal life. Weather, as a matter of fact, is better than most other days! He’s been in touch with friends and family, fairly regularly if I may add! There’s good food and beer in the world! Books haven’t lost their flavour, and Disney+ with its entire collection of Marvel goodness is the shiny new toy on the block! But something’s not the same.
So when you walk up to him, and casually ask, “So, how’s life?”, this is probably what runs through his mind in the split second that follows.
Shit. Life? I can’t really say great. I mean it won’t exactly be honest, will it? Well, I can’t say bad, can I? That would be downright lying… What about good? Good sounds good, right? Listen to yourself! Even you aren’t convinced that it actually IS good… So, not bad then? Not bad is just a mild way of saying that it sucks, but you can’t talk about it! Damn it! Okay then? Yeah, that sounds about right… unless…
“Err… life’s quite good actually!”, he says.
But it’s not, is it?
‘Okay’ by definition is a state of mind that says you don’t even need to think about it before you answer. ‘Okay’ should be as routine as the setting sun and the rising moon. In that context, ‘quite good’ should ideally spring forth as a confident reaction without the involuntary and retarded sound emitted from the back of the throat that loosely translates to ‘err…’.
But he cannot SAY he is OKAY because people are not okay with being okay, right?
How did we arrive at this breed mentality of equating ‘okay’ with the presence of a deeply suppressed tragedy that is bursting out at the seams? Too much Shakespeare? Maybe. I recommend a heavy dose of House to people who belong to this school of thought though.
So, “Err… life’s quite good actually!”, he says
Because the popular follow-up question to the statement, “It’s okay.” is usually – “Why, what’s wrong?” And frankly, he has no direct answer to this question considering his current predicament! Well, you could have asked him this question a couple of weeks ago when the beer was too flat, or the weather was too warm. But now, nothing specific is wrong; just something is.
Which brings me back to the Germans, and their love for a wildly descriptive and delightfully innovative language. If this random guy in the fictional scenario were German, I’m sure he’d have some comeback in this situation without sounding stupid or pretentious! I don’t contend that language itself helps to convey our emotions in the right manner, but the universal understanding of an emotion or a situation using just one word does help!
It’s as if the person in front of you understands you without having to explore the reason behind it. It’s quite similar to the way childhood friends interact. They tend to hit the right wavelength in seconds and exchange entire life stories within minutes. By that analogy, every person in Germany has to be best buds with one another, because more often than not, they just get each other, just like that!
Example, if two Germans really really hate a third person, they could just refer to him as the good’ol Backpfeifengesicht!Probably why Herr Hitler could influence an entire country? Lol…not really.
So, panning back, if I were the guy in the fictional scenario, and someone asked me, “Why, what’s wrong?”, I’d probably fumble for words, trying to explain what exactly I am going through.
Wrong? Who said anything’s wrong? Things are okay… I mean… they could be better you know. But I don’t know… maybe it’s this whole lockdown… I mean it sort of sucks… Yeah, I am with family, so it is definitely better… don’t know It’s just this feeling, you know?
I could do THAT
Make my life easy and just string together the two words Sehnsucht and Gemütlichkeit, and leave it at that.