Thursday, May 28th, 2009

There Oughta Be A German Word For This!

JA!While reading the nearly 9000-word account of the death of the Rocky Mountain News in the Denver magazine 5280, I came across the following literary device used to describe the newspapers situation. This, like many things, surely requires a handy (and possibly faux) German name!

During takeoff from LaGuardia Airport, US Airways Flight 1549 hit some birds, which triggered engine failure, and the pilot, captain Chesley Sullenberger, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, executed a miraculous water landing, saving all 155 people onboard. Before climbing onto a rescue boat himself, Sullenberger walked through the sinking aircraft, twice, to ensure that everyone had been evacuated. One of the pictures, a shot of 1549's tail dipping beneath the Hudson as passengers squeezed onto the wings, would be the front page of the next day's Rocky. The headline: "Wing. Prayer. Rescue."

If any of the editors in the room noted the parallels between Flight 1549 and their own predicament, they kept it to themselves. The Rocky, too, had crashed.

Apart from being, you know, sort of tacky, this is a troublesome and also popular device: the intrusion of a metaphor onto the description of a scene. It is most often a metaphor that likely wasn't at all apparent to the participants in the scene! It is a paralogical metaphor (in what way is a newspaper being run into the ground by bad decisions like a plane being assaulted by geese? And in what way is a miracle landing absolutely unlike a newspaper being shut down? In pretty much no way!) that becomes an epic metaphor as it is taken, most likely unintentionally, way too far.

There oughta be a German word for this!

Have you noticed a condition, literary or real-life, that lacks and requires a handy German word? Let us know!

18 Comments / Post A Comment

El Matardillo (#586)

If you really want to test whether or not your web or smart client user interface design is flexible enough to support world-wide language localization, the first and best language to use is German.

What's the German word for that?

belltolls (#184)


OOOH. THAT IS PRETTY GOOD. Because you have an in-word pun! Turm, for "term"-and also "sturm," as in Bogus Storm!

belltolls (#184)

Thanks! What do I win?

Hobbesian (#255)


amuselouche (#448)

In this one single instance, there really should be an app for that. Weltzschmertz.

Chris Lehmann (#222)

I think the term you're looking for is "synechdreck"

BlinkyMcChuck (#202)

I am forever using "Nachtmare", for, uh, my life.

the teeth (#380)

Unangemesseneundungünstigenmetapher, I think. At least if you follow the typical german pattern of constructing words by removing spaces.

BoHan (#29)

I'm afraid to suggest anything because then some smartypants will point out there is a perfectly useful English word for what I describe. That being said, there needs to be a word for what this Michael Wolff guy does. As in every article starts off "I've never seen 'Jon & Kate Plus 8,' as I am too awesome and revolutionary and too much of a hated outsider to watch such dreck, but here is my 3000 word analysis of it anyway."

katiebakes (#32)


Many of us girls suffer from balknookieliebenlust.


BoHan (#29)

Not Balk!! He just links to the 3000 word analysis, which I find appropriate because that means he didn't think too much about it other than to make sure he coded HTML correctly. But that probably requires another German word.

joeclark (#651)

Actually, Matardillo, I would use Thai, since it uses spaces only between sentences (in the normal course of events). This is the habit neither of Latin-script languages nor of CJK. Plus it’s non-ASCII.

German hyphenation, however, can be quite amusing.

El Matardillo (#586)

Nobody buys software in Thailand. Thai is a third or fourth wave language.

joeclark (#651)

As in tsunami? You’re so clever you could be German!

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