Wednesday, 20 January 2016


It is widely understood that the German language outperforms English in one important area - a facility for the creation of abstract nouns which neatly (i.e. with one word, albeit sometimes a rather long one) convey quite complex and highly specific concepts or emotional states. Examples:

  • Schadenfreude
  • Vergangenheitsbewältigung
  • Kummerspeck
  • Torschlusspanik
  • Fremdschämen
  • Scheinselbständigkeit

With this in mind, so begins an open-ended series of challenges to any German speakers who may happen to stumble on this is my england. These musings will be known as WWBAGWFT (What Would Be a German Word for That?)and will work as follows:

  • a highly specific (usually complex) situation, feeling or concept will be described
  • entry concludes by asking "WWBAGWFT?"

Here goes, then, with the first of these:

OK, so you know when you're on foot and you arrive at a pelican crossing and you press the button because you need to cross the road? You know how when you press the button a light is meant to come on indicating that the button has been pressed? Sometimes the word "WAIT" lights up, right? On some newer crossings, just a red circle of light comes on around the button, yeah? Usually it works. Sometimes it doesn't. OK, so for WWBAGWFT1, there is more than one concept in search of a German abstract noun:

  • WWBAGWFT1A: a word to capture the feeling you experience when the "WAIT" (or red light circle thing) doesn't illuminate and you're not sure whether the whole thing is working... like how long should you wait for the green man before beginning to believe that your pressing of the button had no effect?
  • WWBAGWFT1B: a word to capture the feeling you experience when the following happens: you have pushed the button when there is no one else at the crossing; another pedestrian arrives, clearly sees you standing there waiting and then decides to push the button again herself/himself. To be clear, the nature of the feeling you experience is negative. Perhaps you even find yourself saying to yourself "Does that cunt think I'm too stupid to push the fucking button?". Crucially, the "WAIT" (or similar) thing is ILLUMINATED as a result of your having ALREADY PUSHED THE FUCKING BUTTON. So, in addition to your feeling affronted at the new arrival possibly thinking you are too stupid to push the button, you experience a feeling of contempt arising from the fact that this person has either not noticed the illuminated "WAIT" thing or, worse(?), has noticed it and presses the button anyway... almost as if the signal won't change when you push the button but will change when they do... because... why?
  • WWBAGWFT1C: A variant, blended, situation based on the ones described in WWBAGWFT1A AND WWBAGWFT1B(above), i.e. you have pushed the button, the "WAIT" thing has not lit up (as per WWBAGWFT1A), you are waiting for the signal AND THEN another pedestrian rocks up and presses the button (as per WWBAGWFT1B)... so WWBAGWF the feeling you experience when you see that the new arrival notices you waiting, notices the "WAIT" thing is not lit and the presses the button... so you're probably telling yourself "He thinks I'm just standing here like a prick without pushing the button, waiting for the green man to appear by magic. Fuck him for thinking that!!!"

OK then. Let's see if any passing Germans can assist.  


  1. This word, which is 3 words piled together, seems to express something for at least one of the above.
    Ärgerstörungbeleidigung. Annoyance or anger/disruption/offence to someone's feelings.

  2. ^^ Florida man transplanted to Berlin to the rescue!!