Cyber Corpse 2
Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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Books by Peter Weverka available at (click on title for reviews and ordering info):

Word 2000 for Windows for Dummies Quick Reference

Windows 98 for Busy People

Word 2000: The Complete Reference


Speaking the Unspeakable
by Peter Weverka

It's not easy to speak German. You can choke to death on the gutturals. On the other hand, only in German is it possible to invent an entirely new word simply by mashing a couple of old words together. And because words are mashable in German, Germans can give names to the dark fears, shadowy anxieties, and hard-to-define experiences that go unnamed in other languages. In fact, to describe the following German compound words in other languages you need -- as I do -- an entire paragraph.

naked+plaza+cringing: Who hasn't met a man or woman in a dark, smoky party or pub, made arrangements to meet the next day, and discovered by daylight that the other person is hideous and an embarrassment to be seen with in public? When that happens, you are bound to experience naktPlatzzurückschrecken (naked+plaza+cringing).

cake+man+wariness: If the handsome blond Aryans who appeared on Nazi recruiting posters were to walk down the streets of modern-day Berlin or Münich, they would be recognized immediately for what they were: homosexuals. In Germany, the masculine ideal of beauty is very similar to the homosexual ideal. That being the case, German women sometimes feel KuchenMannVorsicht (cake+man+wariness), the apprehension that the handsome fellow on the opposite side of the cafè table is more interested in the waiter than he is in his date.

ballet+city+commute and Krükosker+city+commute: One morning you arrive at the bus stop just as the bus arrives, you make your connection to the train without having to wait on the platform, and you see nothing but green lights as you cross the streets to get to your office. Or, if you are driving, you never have to press the brakes, because the traffic lights all turn green as soon as you come to them, and when you get to your office, a parking place waits for you right in front of the building. On mornings like these, when the commute goes so smoothly it seems to have been choreographed, a German commuter is said to have a BalletGrosstadtumwandeln (ballet+city+commute). On the other hand, if everything goes wrong, and one obstacle after another is thrown in the commuter's path-red lights, gridlock, stalled buses and trains, traffic accidents-the commuter is said to have a KrükoskerGrosstadtumwandeln (Krükosker+city+commute). The Krükosker is a tumultuous Bavarian harvest dance in which the drunken participants guzzle last year's blueberry wine as they crush the new blueberry crop under their wooden clogs.

vapor+eternity+whiff: In the brief interval between sleep and wakefulness, everyone is a mystic. Having communed with death and eternity during sleep, the waker understands exactly what they are, but only for the briefest of moments, because daylight and its exigencies quickly intrude. Almost as soon as the waker opens his or her eyes, all is lost. Even the aftertaste of eternity, even the shadow of the memory of being there, cannot withstand a moment of waking consciousness. Thus, the waker leaves eternity behind and feels instead an urge to piss. The Germans have a word for that brief, second-long interval of total understanding. They call it DunstEwigkeitZug (vapor+eternity+whiff).

tower+collapse+fear: In the United States, the fear many men have that their lovemaking skills are subpar and that their sexual partners will be unsatisfied is called "performance anxiety." Sexologists tell us that performance anxiety is the chief cause of impotence. In Germany, performance anxiety goes by the poetical name TurmeinstürzenAngst (tower+collapse+fear). It has become a standard joke for visitors to castles to say as they climb the steep stairs of the tower, "Ach, I think I am getting TurmeinstürzenAngst!"

redhead+stepchild+suspicion: Biologically, all children are their mothers', but not all were conceived with the help of the guy called vater. A German father who observes his child in an odd light or from an odd angle may experience, however momentarily, a twinge of rothaarigStiefkindVerdacht (redhead+stepchild+suspicion), the foreboding that one's child is not really one's own.

echo+mirror+talk: In crowded urban settings, at bus stops or in cafes, an eavesdropper sometimes overhears a conversation in which the talkers know they are being listened to, but far from being offended, the talkers actually change the tenor of their conversation for the benefit of the eavesdropper. The result is a theatrical performance with an audience of one. Often the performers try to bait the audience with outlandish political opinions or vulgarity. The audience, in the same way that the audience at a real performance must not disturb the players, cannot change facial expressions or show any evidence of listening, no matter how provocative the players are. This little theater, in which the actors try to make the audience speak and the audience pretends it isn't listening, goes by the name EchoSpiegelUnterhaltung (echo+mirror+talk) in German.

lesbian+metamorphosis+pride: Among extreme macho types ("Ja, I did a number on the bitch!") it is a point of pride to be able to say that your ex-girlfriend has become a lesbian. Some men exult in lesbischMetamorphoseStolz (lesbian+metamorphosis+pride). There is even a folk song by that name, the final chorus of which has the singers smash their beer steins on the bar.

Danish+pushbroom: The German longing for orderliness is legendary, but, curiously, the Germans themselves think that the Danish are the ones who take orderliness to unnecessary extremes. The Danes are too orderly. The Danes make too much out of being on time, being clean, and being efficient. A German who exceeds even the German standards of orderliness may get called a dänishBesen (Danish+pushbroom).

grandfather+history+dilemma: Imagine growing up in a country where everyone over a certain age is under suspicion of having committed murder. One walks down a pleasant country lane. One comes to a charming village. Four old gentlemen spill out of a tavern. How many Jews, Gypsies, and dissenters did they kill? In moments like these, a young German may experience GrosvaterGeschichteDilemma (grandfather+history+dilemma), the sneaking suspicion that one is in the company of geriatric killers.

lifetime+meridian+threshold: At age 20, a man can flirt with the entire spectrum of womankind. Teenage girls are flattered by his attention and matrons blush. In the ensuing two decades, however, the 20-year-old slowly concludes that he cannot flirt with all women, not without looking ridiculous or violating social proprieties. Teenage girls would think he was a creep. To flirt with older women would wound his vanity. The erstwhile 20-year-old must resign himself to flirting only with women his own age, and even at that he can't be sure they notice, because they are so preoccupied by their careers and children. His youth is finished. He has reached what Germans call his LebenMeridanSchwelle (lifetime+meridian+threshold).


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