German Word of the Day: Der Weltschmerz

Today's German word of the day is something many people experience as they back to work on Monday morning.

German Word of the Day: Der Weltschmerz
Photo: Depositphotos

Tired, down and depressed with the world? Frustrated with your friends because they refuse to help you out of the predicament you’re in? Don’t want to go in to work because your colleagues are incompetent? You might have a case of Weltschmerz.

Weltschmerz literally means ‘world pain’ and refers to a sense of world-weariness. It denotes feelings of sadness and melancholy as provoked by the inadequacy of the human experience. Weltschmerz is suffered by people who perceive that physical reality is too tarnished by evil and suffering to satisfy the mind’s desires.

The word was coined by German Romantic author Jean Paul and became a popular notion amongst other Romantic writers such as Heinrich Heine and Clemens Brentano.

Er hat viel um seinen Weltschmerz geschrieben.

He wrote a lot about his feelings of world weariness

Ich kann es nicht mehr leiden. Ich leide an Weltschmerz.

I can’t put up with it any more. I’m suffering from weariness with the world.

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German phrase of the day: Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln

Anyone who has ever had to come up with a great idea on the fly can probably relate to this German phrase.

German phrase of the day: Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln

Why do I need to know ‘etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln’? 

Because this versatile phrase can come in handy in a range of situations, from having pulled off a great presentation at short notice to coming up with a spontaneous solution to a problem. 

What does it mean?

Etwas aus dem Ärmel schütteln is similar to the English phrase “to pull something out of a hat” or “to have something up your sleeve”. Literally, the German phrase means to shake something out of your sleeve, but in a figurative sense it describes coming up with a bright idea or pulling something off without planning or effort. 

Generally, shaking something out of your sleeve is what’s required when you’re faced with a tricky situation and you need to quickly think up a solution. It might be that you have to stand in for a colleague in an important meeting at short notice, or rustle up a meal from the scraps in your cupboard after forgetting that supermarkets are closed on Sunday. 

READ ALSO: German phrase of the day: Ich glaub’ mein Schwein pfeift

In a similar sleeve-related vein, the English phrase “off the cuff” shares the same sense of executing a difficult task spontaneously. 

So, why are sleeves so important for getting out of a sticky situation? Well, there are a few theories about that.

The first relates to a cheat in card games: if you’re dealt a bad hand, you can always improve your chances by pulling out a few better cards that may have found their way into your sleeve earlier on. 

Another theory dates back to the times when people would wear long robes or other garments with wide sleeves. This would allow people not only to warm their hands, but also to store small objects they may need up their sleeves, to be “shaken out” when the time was right. 

Use it like this: 

Was kann er jeztz aus dem Ärmel shütteln? 

What has he got up his sleeve now? 

Wenn Marina denkt, den Abschluss aus dem Ärmel schütteln zu können, dann hat sie sich aber gründlich vertan.

If Marina thinks she can just pull the degree out of her sleeve, then she is very much mistaken.