Wunderbar! 7 German Loanwords You Can Still Adopt

The Burnett doppelganger
We’re seeing doppel.

Last week we brought 10 of the coolest words we can’t believe no one has adopted. Today we have seven excellent German loanwords that are also still available. They might be called untranslatables — that is, words that don’t have corresponding word in another language, in this case English — or you can just call them wunderbar.

doppelganger

Quick, adopt doppelganger before your evil twin does! An apparition or double of someone still living, the term translates literally as “double goer” and originally had a paranormal sense.

schadenfreude

We can hardly believe it ourselves, but schadenfreude is still unadopted. Translating literally as “damage” (Schaden) “joy” (Freude), this term refers to pleasure that comes from another’s misfortune.

ersatz

Call something ersatz and you’re calling it an imitation or substitute, usually an inferior one. The term first appeared in English in 1875, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and comes from the German Ersatz meaning “units of the army reserve” and translating literally as “compensation, replacement, substitute.”

zeitgeist

In addition to being the original name of the Wordnik community page, a zeitgeist is the spirit of a particular time or the defining taste or outlook of a generation or period. The earliest recorded use in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), was in 1848 by poet Matthew Arnold. It translates from German as “time” (Zeit) “spirit” (Geist).

gestalt

A gestalt is the “configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts.” The word first appeared in English in 1922, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, coming from the German term Gestaltqualität, which was introduced in 1890 by German philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels. Gestaltqualität is from gestalt meaning “shape, form, figure, configuration, appearance.”

weltschmerz

Feeling sad about the evils of the world, but in a kind of romantic or sentimental way? You’re feeling weltschmerz. Translating literally as “world pain,” the term first appeared in English in 1875, says the OED.

zugzwang

In addition to being fun to say, this word is perfect for chess and German language lovers alike. In a zugzwang, a chess player is forced to make “an undesirable or disadvantageous move.” It translates literally as “pull compulsion.”

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Damon Runyon: Word ‘Moxie’ ‘In Spades’

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A scene from ‘Guys and Dolls.’

While Damon Runyon might be best known for his 1920s, Broadway-focused short stories — two of which were adapted into the musical Guys and Dolls — what we’re celebrating today are the terms he coined or popularized. Take a look at six of them on the writer’s birthday.

go overboard

“We go overboard today. We are washed out. We owe every bookmaker.., and now we are out trying to raise some scratch to pay off.”

Collier’s, September 26, 1931

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Runyon’s is the earliest recorded usage of this idiom meaning to go to extremes. The literal term of overboard refers to being over the side of a ship.

in spades

“I always hear the same thing about every bum on Broadway, male and female, including some I know are bums, in spades, right from taw.”

Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan, October 1929

Since the spade is the highest suit in bridge, it’s fitting that this saying means “to a considerable degree.”

zing

“I felt him fall and I sensed the ‘zing’ of a boob-face Arab’s knife.”

Tents of Trouble, 1911

You can thank Runyon for possibly creating the word for this zingy, high-pitched sound. By 1918, says the OED, zing also meant energy, vigor, or a zest for life.

moxie

“Personally, I always figure Louie a petty-larceny kind of guy, with no more moxie than a canary bird.”

Collier’s, December 20, 1930

Before becoming slang for “the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage”; aggressive energy or initiative; or skill or know-how, moxie was the name of a soft drink (which is apparently still around), which was patented as a “nerve food” around 1885. According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, the name might come from the Algonquian base maski-, meaning “medicine.”

stinkeroo

“The contest..turns out to be something of a disappointment, and, in fact, it is a stinkeroo, because there is little skill and no science whatever in it.”

Collier’s, November 24, 1934

If something isn’t just bad but really bad, it’s not just a stinker but a stinkeroo.

zillion

“I love him a zillion dollars’ worth.”

Runyon a la Carte, 1944

When a million, billion, trillion, or even a quadrillion aren’t enough, you can always use a zillion. If a zillion still isn’t enough, there’s always a gazillion, which, according to the OED, might have been coined by long-time television critic Tom Shales in a December 3, 1978 article for The Washington Post: “Everything is played not to the people in the seats but to the unseen gazillions who will watch the tape played back later that night, when it is teleported into their proverbial bedrooms.”

September Food Word Origins: macadamia nut, Monte Cristo sandwich, cherries jubilee

Cherries Jubilee
Cooking up some cherries jubilee.

It’s the end of the month so you know what that means: a roundup of the most interesting origins of foods celebrated in September. Last month we kicked things off with s’mores, sponge-cake, and chop suey. This time we have five more delicious food words and where they (might) come from.

macadamia nut

“Perhaps the best of these [recent introductions to Hawaii] is the Macadamia Nut, sometimes called the Queensland Nut from its native habitat.”

Mary Dillingham Frear, Our Familiar Island Trees, 1929

The delicious macadamia nut (celebrated each September 4) was named after Scottish chemist and politician, John Macadam. At 28 he set sail from Glasgow to Australia, where he became friends with botanist Ferdinand von Mueller. Mueller was taxed with naming flora “discovered” by European settlers, and chose to name the nut-bearing tree after Macadam.

John Macadam shouldn’t be confused with John Loudon McAdam, the Scottish engineer who invented macadam, or Charles Macintosh, the Scottish chemist who created a method to make garments waterproof, such as his namesake, the mackintosh raincoat.

hot dog

“The ‘hot dog’ was quickly inserted in a gash in a roll, a dash of mustard also splashed on to the ‘dog’ with a piece of flat whittled stick, and the order was fulfilled.”

Paterson Daily Press, December 31, 1892

A hundred and third plus years ago, you’d be lauding sausages served hot every National Hot Dog Day on September 10. That’s what the term hot dog originally referred to (with the popular, yet hopefully untrue, belief that sausage contained dog), says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It was also used as a mass noun. From a September 14, 1884 issue of the Evansville Daily Courier: “Even the innocent ‘wienerworst’ man will be barred from dispensing hot dog on the street corner.”

hot cross bun

“Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.”

Poor Robin’s Almanack, 1733

Every September 11 honors the hot cross bun, which is  sweet and “marked on top with a cross of frosting, traditionally eaten during Lent.” The 1733 citation above is the earliest recorded, says the OED, and while “hot” is still always included in the name, it’s now usually served cold.

linguini

“When peas are used, rarely is the sauce poured over the linguine or fettuccelle.”

Garibaldi M. Lapolla, Good Food from Italy, 1954

Every September 15, you can fete this long, flat pasta, the name of which comes from the Italian lingua, meaning “tongue.” The earliest recorded usage in English of linguine is 1920, according to the OED. From a U.S. Patent Office publication: “Macaronic Foods, Including Bombolati, Linguini, Foratini, [etc.].” Italian immigrants had been coming to the U.S. since the 1890s, and while immigration tapered off around 1920, says the Library of Congress, by then more than four million Italians had settled in the U.S.

Monte Cristo sandwich

“The Monte Cristo sandwich has always served as a sort of Rosetta Stone in my explorations of this planet.”

Thadius Van Landingham III, “Count the Monte Cristos,” The Stranger, May 11, 2006

Like the eponymous count of Alexandre Dumas’s 19th-century novel, the origins of the Monte Cristo sandwich are shrouded in mystery. According to the Food Timeline, the battered and fried ham and cheese sandwich celebrated every September 17 is probably a variation of the croque monsieur, the term of which first appeared in English in 1915, says the OED. As for the Monte Cristo, Food Timeline says it was most likely “first served in southern California” and was “very popular in the 1950s-1970s.” However, what it has to do with a rich and enigmatic nobleman, your guess is as good as ours.

cherries jubilee

“Thursday, it was Beef Wellington and Cherries Jubilee, and enough Sevruga Caviar to make the QE2 one of the Russian’s largest single customers.”

Rebecca Leung, “Farewell to the Queen,” CBS News, January 23, 2004

Lauded every September 24, this decadent dessert is made up of cherries in a flaming brandy sauce served over vanilla ice cream. It was supposedly created for Queen Victoria’s jubilee celebration, says Food Timeline. However, what isn’t clear is if it was for her golden jubilee in 1887, celebrating the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne, or her diamond jubilee in 1897, the 60th anniversary.

A jubilee can refer to a specially celebrated anniversary, a season of celebration, or rejoicing itself. The Online Etymology Dictionary says the word comes from the Old French jubileu, “jubilee; anniversary; rejoicing,” which ultimately comes from the Hebrew yobhel, meaning “jubilee” but formerly “a trumpet, ram’s horn,” or literally “ram.” The site goes on to say the original jubilee was a year of emancipation of Hebrew “slaves and restoration of lands, to be celebrated every 50th year,” and “was proclaimed by the sounding of a ram’s horn on the Day of Atonement.”

[Image: “Cherries Jubilee” by something.from.nancy, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Five Jazzy Words from F. Scott Fitzgerald

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F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the quintessential authors of the Jazz Age, was born on this day in 1896. While best known for his novels (This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, and The Last Tycoon, unfinished and published posthumously), his tumultuous marriage to fellow writer Zelda, and being one-time BFFs with Ernest Hemingway, he also coined or popularized several terms that have entered the lexicon. Today we dive into our five favorites.

daiquiri

“Here’s the old jitney waiter. If you ask me, I want a double Daiquiri.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

While this cocktail of rum, lime or lemon juice, and sugar is believed to have been invented in 1896 by a U.S. mining engineer in Cuba — according to the Online Etymology Dictionary — Fitzgerald’s use in his first novel is the earliest recorded in English. The word daiquiri comes from Cuban village of the same name.

deb

“Both Tom and Amory had outgrown the passion for dancing with mid-Western or New Jersey debbies at the Club de Vingt.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

Deb or debbie is a shortening of debutante, “a young woman making a formal debut into society.” The word debutante debuted in English in the early 1800s, and at first also referred to a female performer making her first appearance in public, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

petting

“On the Triangle trip Amory had come into constant contact with the great current American phenomenon, the ‘petting party.’”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

Petting led to heavy petting 40 years later, according to the OED: “What is called ‘heavy petting’ in which frank exploration of each other’s bodies is permitted.”

wicked

“You two order; Phoebe and I are going to shake a wicked calf.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

Ron Weasley can thank Fitzgerald for the ironically positive usage of wicked meaning wonderful, splendid, or remarkable. However, it was used in a jocular way to mean mischievous or sly since starting in the 17th century. From Shakespeare’s As You Like It: “That same wicked Bastard of Venus,..that blinde rascally boy.” As for how wicked became a New-England-centric intensifier (wicked smart, for example), check out this post from Merriam-Webster.

T-shirt

“So early in September Amory, provided with ‘six suits summer underwear, six suits winter underwear, one sweater or T shirt, one jersey, one overcoat, winter, etc.,’ set out for New England, land of schools.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

While Fitzgerald’s is the first known mention of the word T-shirt (thought to be named for its shape), the simple yet iconic garment existed long before, says The New York Times.

Jazzed for more? Check out our posts on the language of the 1920s beyond the “bee’s knees”  as well as 10 terms coined by Ernest Hemingway.

James Fenimore Cooper: An A No. 1 Word Coiner

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James Fenimore Cooper, born on this day in 1789, is considered America’s first major novelist. While he’s perhaps best known for books such as the Leatherstocking Tales, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Deerslayer, the New York native was also a coiner of words, several of which we still use today. Here we take a look at six.

A No. 1

“I set all the Effinghams down as tip-tops, or, A No. 1, as Mr Leach calls his ship.”

Homeward Bound, 1838

A No. 1, meaning first-class or outstanding, is an alteration of A1, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The term A1 originally referred a wooden ship being “first-class in respect of both hull and fittings,” especially “as classified in Lloyd’s Register,” a maritime classification society. The figurative meaning of A1 was first used by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers: “‘He must be a first-rater,’ said Sam. ‘A, 1,’ replied Mr. Roker.”

aplenty

“A sailor’s blessing on you—fair winds and a plenty.”

Water Witch, 1830

This word meaning in plentiful supply or abundant is still used aplenty since Cooper coined it. From a recent article in The Huffington Post: “Jeremy can find work aplenty in today’s job market and good wages, too.”

hoi polloi

“If there are to be knights and nobles and academicians, they must be of the number; not that such distinctions are necessary to them, but that they are necessary to the distinctions; after which the oi polloi are enrolled as they can find interest.”

Recollections of Europe, 1837

Of course Cooper didn’t invent this ancient Greek phrase meaning “the herd,” but his was the earliest use in English transliteration. The earliest to use the Greek characters for hoi polloi in English was John Dryden in 1668: “If by the people you understand the multitude, the οἱ πολλοὶ.”

homebody

“Marry him I don’t think I will—unless he becomes steadier and more of a homebody.”

Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground, 1821

Stay-at-homers everywhere can thank Cooper for this cozy word.

muscle man

“I suppose these muscle men will not have much use for any but the oyster-knives, as I am informed they eat with their fingers.”

Homeward Bound, 1838

While Cooper’s meaning of muscle man is, well, a muscular man (especially a wrestler or bodybuilder), around 1929 the term gained the meaning of someone “who uses violence or threats to intimidate people, [especially] on behalf of another,” says the OED.

old chap

“‘Come, old chap,’ said Billy, good-naturedly, ‘don’t be crabbed, but hear what a man has got to say.’”

Pioneers, 1823

While Cooper is American, this familiar term of address is chiefly British, says the OED. The word chap meaning lad or fellow once meant “customer” and comes from the now obsolete chapman, a peddler or merchant.

Want more author-coined words? Check out our posts on terms invented by Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Cooper’s frenemy, Mark Twain.

August Food Word Origins: s’mores, sponge-cake, and chop suey

800px-Sponge_cake_at_Top_Cantonese_Restaurant

Every month seems to be chock-full of food holidays. For instance, August has no fewer than five pie days. While it all might be a bit much, so many delicious special occasions still make us hungry, not just for treats but for words.

Here we take a look at the origins of some of the most interesting (and yummy) celebrated dishes of this past month.

s’mores

Heavenly crisp (Also known as S’mores)… Toast two marshmallows over the coals to a crisp, gooey state and then put them inside a graham cracker and chocolate bar sandwich.”

Snyder and C. F. Loomis, The Outdoor Book, 1934

Chances are you’re familiar with this deliciously gooey snack celebrated every August 10. But did you know it wasn’t always known by its contracted name? While the earliest s’mores appears in print is 1934, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), some-more predates it by 11 years. From a September 1925 issue of the newspaper, Norwalk Hour: “At the supper, two Camp Andree ‘dishes’—‘Kabobs’ and ‘Some-mores’—were introduced.”

creamsicle

“Pour into thin glass and insert an Orange Creamsicle. Serve soda spoon and straws on the side.”

Let’s Sell Ice Cream, 1939

Creamsicle, like popsicle, is still an official trademark name of the Unilever company although it might be used now to mean any similar frozen sweet. While a popsicle is basically frozen sugary fruit juice on a stick, a creamsicle has vanilla ice cream at its center with another layer of ice in a variety of flavors. Lauded each August 14, the earliest appearance of creamsicle in print was in 1932, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

sponge-cake

“You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.”

Jane Austen, Selected Letters, June 1808

That’s right, the earliest known citation of the light and airy dessert is from none other than the Pride and Prejudice author, according to the OED. We’re guessing, however, Austen didn’t coin the term and that the baked good must have existed well before her mentioning it. You can celebrate the sponge cake every August 23.

waffle

“Everywhere, too, you get wafen; our wafles, and made and eaten in the same way.”

Aaron Burr, Private Journal, August 26, 1809

Yes, that Aaron Burr. While Burr’s usage is one of the earliest, the delightful-sounding compound waffle frolic predates it by 65 years: “For my own part I was not a little grieved that so luxurious a feast should come under the name of a wafel frolic.” The word waffle comes from the Dutch wafel.

chop suey

“A staple dish for the Chinese gourmand is chow chop svey [sic], a mixture of chickens’ livers and gizzards, fungi, bamboo buds, pigs’ tripe, and bean sprouts stewed with spices.”

Current Literature, October 1888

Legend says this dish of mixed meat and vegetables in a corn-starch-thickened sauce was invented on August 29, 1896 by a visiting Chinese statesmen. However, the above citation from the OED clearly debunks that. The Smithsonian chop suey most likely comes from Chinese immigrants who settled in the U.S. in the mid-1800s, “adapted to locally available foods and tame European-American tastebuds.” The word originates from the Cantonese shap sui, which translates roughly as “mixed bits.”

[Image: “Sponge cake at Top Cantonese Restaurant,” Roland Tanglao, CC BY 2.0]

10 English Words with Surprising Chinese Origins

Heinz Ketchup

You might have heard that in recent years that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added several words from Singapore English into their corpus. A few of our favorites include blur or blur-blur, being slow in understanding; lepak, meaning to relax, loaf, or hang out; and shiok, meaning great, delicious, superb.

But how about common English words with Chinese roots? Today we take a look at 10 everyday English words you might not know come from Chinese languages, just in time for the Lunar New Year.

ketchup

While ketchup may seem as American as the burgers and fries you slather it on, both the word and the condiment have Chinese origins.

The earliest citation for the word ketchup in English is from 1682, says the OED. It began as a kind of “piquant sauce produced in southeast Asia, probably made from fermented soybeans or fish.” The Malay word it might come from is kicap, “fish sauce,” from the Cantonese, kē-chap. Later ketchup referred to a sauce made in imitation of the fish sauce, “typically made from the juice or pulp of a fruit, vegetable, or other foodstuff combined with vinegar or wine and spices.”

In other words, ketchup wasn’t necessarily made with tomatoes, at least not at first. Back in the day, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the “most esteemed kinds” of ketchup were mushroom, walnut, and tomato, which emerged around 1800 in the U.S. and predominated from the early 20th century.

Now how about catsup? It’s just another pronunciation and spelling of the original Asian word, says Mental Floss. The OED says the variation came slightly after ketchup, around 1696, and that perhaps because of “influence from major commercial brands of sauce,” the latter became the dominant term in the mid 20th century.

yen

Have a yen burger and fries now? You’ve got what was once known as a craving for drugs. The word yen probably comes from the Cantonese yan or Mandarin yin, of the same meaning. Yen-yen is U.S. slang for a opium hankering, says the OED.

brainwashing

According to Brainwashing: The science of thought control by Kathleen Taylor, xinao, which translates literally from Chinese as “wash brain,” originally referred to coercive persuasion tactics used under the Maoist government, which began in 1949. The English word, brainwashing, was first used in 1951, says the OED, referring to “the systematic and often forcible elimination from a person’s mind of all established ideas, esp. political ones, so that another set of ideas may take their place.”

cumshaw

This word meaning tip or gratuity comes from the Xiamen (formerly Amoy) Chinese dialect, says the OED. Kam-sia, “grateful thanks,” was apparently an expression of gratitude used by beggars.

tycoon

While tycoon now means rich and powerful businessperson or magnate, it was once the title for a Japanese shogun. The Japanese taikun comes from the Chinese ta kiun, “great prince.”

kowtow

A literal and figurative act of servile deference. In Chinese culture, to kowtow, or kòu tóu, refers to the custom of touching one’s forehead to the ground as a form of “respect, submission, or worship,” says the OED. In English kowtow also refers to acting in an obsequious manner or an obsequious act.

look-see

The origin of this term for a quick survey is described by the OED as either “a borrowing from Chinese Pidgin English” or “formed within English.” Look-see started as a verb (from 1862: “I went up to ‘look see’, and found that they were working away admirably”) although that usage is now rare. The earliest use as a noun is from 1876.

no can do

This phrase meaning “No go” or “Not possible” might be a transliteration of the Mandarin bùkěyǐ. While no can do first appeared in English in 1868, says the OED, the positive version, can do, is earlier, from 1845. The noun sense is even earlier (1839) while the adjective, often referring to an optimistic attitude, is from 1926.

gung ho

Gung ho meaning enthusiastic and dedicated originated as a motto of “certain U.S. Marine forces in Asia during World War II,” says the American Heritage Dictionary, and comes from the Mandarin gōnghé, “to work together,” an abbreviation of gōngyèhézuòshè, Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society.

chop-chop

Chop-chop!” or “Hurry up!” might be a corruption of the Cantonese term for “rush,” gap gap, or the Mandarin kuai kuai, “quick quick.” This chop is apparently the same as in chopsticks, or kuai zi in Mandarin, “fast ones.” While chop-chop first appeared in English in 1834, says the OED, chopstick was first used much earlier, in 1699.