A Playful German Word Exercise Tastier Than Weiner Schnitzel

Here’s a fun creative exercise courtesy of Sam Apple via Tim Ferris. 

In a recent blog post, Sam, who teaches a writing class on noticing at John Hopkins, shares some wonderful insights on how to get better at noticing, in turn helping you become a better writer.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing, but I want to share one of the exercises he suggests. This particular exercise has got me feeling playful and has my creative noticing skills on high-alert so I can continue playing the game. 

What follows is a description of the exercise, taken straight from the article and some of my own examples (hopefully, you’ll find some enjoyment in them – I certainly had fun coming up with them).

The German Word Exercise

It’s often said that the Germans have a word for everything. The most famous example is Schadenfreude —pleasure one derives from another’s misfortune. But there are countless others: Politikverdrossenheit—a disenchantment with politics—is a word that English could really use. Then there’s Kummerspeck—the excess fat gained from emotional overeating. It literally translates to “grief bacon.”

But, of course, there are countless subtle experiences and emotions that have not yet been named in any language. This exercise asks you to identify an experience or emotional state that hasn’t yet been named and to write a short passage about it. (Make the word up too!)

Examples:

  • Geomelangraphy – the feeling of returning to a place that once felt like home or community and it feels foreign or you can no longer connect the place to the feeling of home.
  • Legouchpain – the distinctive, painful small death that occurs when you step on a Lego block barefooted.
  • Blade Frugalism – a stubborn belief that one must use a razor blade head for a set period of time, no matter how dull or badly it lacerates your face or skin, because that shit is expensive and you will not let the manufacturer win.
  • Date Voyeurism – the tendency to observe two people (same sex or opposite sex) in a public setting (such as a restaurant or coffee shop) and guess if they’re friends or on a date based entirely on body language.
  • Hydroketchup – that first bit of ketchup that comes out when you forget to shake the bottle and it’s basically just tomato water.

Now it’s your turn. I welcome you to give this a shot and, hopefully, you’ll find it as fun as I have. 

The real joy is in sharing our work, so feel free to drop me a note and share whatever you come up with. 

Who knew noticing could be so fun.