Weltschmerz: a very German kind of woe


This may seem obvious to anyone who speaks more than one language, but the range of terms and synonyms for one particular word can tell us a lot about its culture and traditions. It’s not like Paula and I are translating from Sorbian or Hungarian, but we do occasionally come across words that are darn difficult to hit 100%...everyone's heard of Weltschmerz, Schadenfreude and Zeitgeist, but have you ever really stopped to think about why the German language has these words and we don’t?


As a child I remember sometimes crying for absolutely no reason, and just feeling plain miserable. I imagine modern British parents would have put it down to “over-stimulation”, too much chocolate/TV/Playstation, or simply hormones. But I grew up with a German mother, and her consoling words were “Es ist nur Weltschmerz!” and weird as it may seem, it was strangely comforting to feel that my pain was a kind of communal ache that everyone had at one time or another, derived simply from the very burden of being alive in this world. So surely it is no coincidence that Germany has produced more than its fair share of Romantic writers and poets and philosophers? 


According to Wikipedia the definition of Weltschmerz is “the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind.” Well, that just about covers every time I go to the supermarket or spend an afternoon trying to find that perfect pair of jeans!


Kommentar schreiben

Kommentare: 0