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LEARNING GERMAN

German Word of the Day: Fremdschämen

Your friend has just committed a terrible social faux pas, and you can feel yourself blushing on their behalf. This describes the uniquely German word Fremdschämen.

German Word of the Day: Fremdschämen
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The politician has been filmed tripping over, the footage is all over social media, and all you can do is cringe. A child has just indelicately pointed out how big your boss’ nose is. You schämst dich fremd.

Composed of fremd, ‘foreign, external’, and schämen, ‘to be ashamed’, the term denotes the embarrassment you feel for someone who has embarrassed themselves. Fremdschämen is when you feel uncomfortable or awkward, because another person has created an embarrassing situation.

It can perhaps be considered the antonym for the famous German term, Schadenfreude (feeling pleasure at someone else’ pain).

Examples:

Als du das gesagt hast, habe ich mich fremdgeschämt.

When you said that, I felt embarrassed for you.

Fremdschämen ist ein ganz selbstverständliches Gefühl.

To feel second-hand embarrassment is a totally natural feeling.

Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.

 

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German Word of the Day: die Ausrede

If you want to get out of a date, or you haven’t done your homework – you might need one of these.

German Word of the Day: die Ausrede

This little German word can come in handy in a variety of situations.

Ausrede, Meaning “excuse” consists of the verb reden which means “to talk” or “to speak” and the prefix aus which translates as “out”, “off” or “from”.

So, a good way to remember the word is to think of it as a tool you use for talking yourself out of something. 

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that in German, the word Ausrede has a slightly negative connotation and can be used to hint that the reason given is fabricated.

So, if you want to tell your boss that you have a good reason for why you can’t come to work, it’s better to say you have eine Entschuldigung (also meaning excuse) instead.

Another thing to watch out for is trying to use the verb ausreden in the same way as the English “to excuse”. In German, the verb ausreden actually means to finish speaking, for example: ich lasse ihn ausreden means “I let him finish speaking”.

Examples:

Er hat nach einer Ausrede gesucht

He was looking for an excuse

Diesmal habe ich keine Ausrede
This time I have no excuse
 
Besser keine Ausrede als eine schlechte
Better to have no excuse than a bad one
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