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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Eight German words that perfectly sum up being in your 20s

Whether you have just graduated, just been dumped or just now trying to figure yourself out, sometimes you're just at a loss for words in your twenties. But German is here to help.

Eight German words that perfectly sum up being in your 20s
"Bier" is, of course, the one word that goes without saying. Photo: Claus Rebler on Flickr

1. Fernweh – longing for a far off place

To be fair, you might get further if you choose a mode of transport that isn't wind-powered. Photo: Moyan Brenn on Flickr

You've probably had this itchy-feet feeling at least once during your twenties of Fernweh – literally a longing for a distant place.

This is basically the opposite of homesickness (or 'Heimweh), meaning a feeling of “anywhere but here”, perhaps specifically “anywhere but my hometown where all my high school friends have turned into pricks”.

2. Schnapsidee – idea that comes from too much Schnapps

We 20-somethings generally still seem to be figuring out that having a few too many beers or shots (or both) is generally not the best time for decision-making.

So when your friends suggest stealing a street sign right outside a police station – at noon – tell them it's a Schnapsidee and offer to buy them a döner instead.

3. Torschlusspanik – fear that you’ve missed out

Helping friends try on wedding dresses is a well-known cause of Torschlusspanik. Photo: DPA

When your Facebook and Instagram feeds seem to be perpetually filled with engagement and baby photos, you might be feeling Torschlusspanik.

Literally translating to “closed gate panic”, this is the feeling that a door has shut on something big, usually like finding a soulmate and settling down.

“Wasn’t our generation supposed to be delaying adulthood, pushing marriage into our thirties or forties? Will Tinder ever help me find my dream person?” you ask yourself as you swipe through another round of virtual suitors.

This also might lead you to feel…

4. Mutterseelenallein – forever alone

Photo: Manolo Gomez on Flickr

This literally translates to “mother's soul alone”, or so alone that not even your mother's soul is there by your side.

5. Hotel Mama – living with mum and dad

Hey, she got you this far – of course Mama doesn't mind! Photo: pawpaw67 on Flickr

Maybe a bit the opposite of the previous word, but Hotel Mama is the German turn to use when talking about people who still live with their parents as grown adults.

Many of us may face this at some point in our twenties, and there's no shame in it – especially when suffering under all the debt from attending university outside continental Europe.

6. Lebensabschnittspartner – part-of-life partner

Things don't have to last forever to be beautiful, right? Photo: Amy Humphries on Flickr

If you do manage to move out of Hotel Mama and find someone to help you feel less mutterseelenallein, it’ll probably be with someone who isn’t quite your soulmate but more of a you-will-do-for-now mate.

We 20-somethings may end up going through a slew of these, summed up in the mouthful of a word, usually used in hindsight, Lebensabschnittspartner: part-of-life companion.

Who said romance was dead?

7. Zukunftsangst – fear of the future

Getting through your 20s can be a little stressful. But German is here to help you talk about it! Photo: Sodanie Chea on Flickr.

Actually, you didn’t even need to look at the rest of the list, because this one really sums up the essence of being between 20 and 29. This fear at the start of the decade might propel you into graduate school to bide more time before having to really face Your Future.

This fear also might make you avoid certain family and friend gatherings, knowing too well that the f-word will inevitably come up, particularly if you mention that you're working as a waitress, yes, even with that degree.

And even if by 29 you have a job, an apartment and seem to pretty much have it all together, you probably still have this fear as you lurch toward 30, perhaps because that job isn’t exactly what you hope you’ll be doing forever.

Or because you know that there are ever more expectations hiding around the corner of the next ten years. (Ahem, babies).

But have no Zukunftsangst, because there’s another German word that might help change your perspective…

8. Lebenskunst – the art of living

It's not just the destination, but the journey, right? And your twenties, with few responsibilities, old-age-induced ailments and still plenty of energy, are a great time to focus less on what the end goal is, and more on the general process of living.

Lebenskunst and being a Lebenskünstler (life artist) is about approaching life like a work of art – something you might in a way already do with your active Instagram account.

But more fundamentally, it's about making life “magical in myriad ways by putting a positive spin on everything and by taking pleasure in little things others might overlook,” as the German Information Center puts it.

However, in hard-working Switzerland, not everyone is enamoured of the idea of being a Lebenskünstler. For some, the word is a euphemism for a lazy, ahem, bs artist.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Inchiodare’

You'll nail this word in no time.

Italian word of the day: 'Inchiodare'

What do a carpenter, a detective, and a bank robber screeching to a halt in their getaway car all have in common?

In English, not much – but in Italian, they could all be said to inchiodare (eenk-ee-ohd-AHR-eh) in the course of their professional activities.

In its simplest form, inchiodare simply means ‘to nail’ (chiodo, ‘kee-OH-do’, is a nail) – a picture to a wall, or a leg to a table.

Ha trovato questo cartello inchiodato alla sua porta.
She found this notice nailed to her door.

Inchioderò la mensola al muro più tardi.
I’ll nail the shelf to the wall later.

But like ‘to nail’, inchiodare has more than one definition.

You can use it to describe someone or something being ‘pinned’ in place, without actually having been literally nailed there.

Mi ha inchiodato al muro.
He pinned me to the wall.

La mia gamba è inchiodata al terreno.
My leg is pinned to the ground.

You can be metaphorically inchiodato to a place in the sense of being stuck there, tied down, or trapped.

Dovrei essere in vacanza e invece sono inchiodata alla mia scrivenia.
I should be on holiday and instead I’m stuck at my desk.

Don'T Forger You'Re Here Forever GIF - The Simpsons Mr Burns Youre Here GIFs

Siamo inchiodati a questa scuola per altri tre anni.
We’re stuck at this school for another three years.

Sono stati inchiodati dal fuoco di armi.
They were trapped by gunfire.

Just like in English, you can inchiodare (‘nail’) someone in the sense of proving their guilt.

Chiunque sia stato, ha lasciato tracce di DNA che lo inchioderanno.
Whoever it was, they left traces of DNA that will take them down.

Ti inchioderò per questo omicidio.
I’m going to nail you for this murder.

Thomas Sadoski Tommy GIF by CBS

Senza la pistola non lo inchioderemo, perché non abbiamo altre prove.
Without the gun we’re not going to get him, because we have no other proof.

For reasons that are less clear, the word can also mean to slam on the brakes in a car.

Ha inchiodato e ha afferrato la pistola quando ha visto la volante bloccando la strada.
He slammed on the brakes and grabbed the gun when he saw the police car blocking the road.

Hanno inchiodato la macchina a pochi passi da noi.
They screeched to a halt in the car just a few feet away from us.

Those last two definitions mean that you’re very likely to encounter the word when watching mystery shows or listening to true crime podcasts. Look out for it the next time you watch a detective drama.

In the meantime, have a think about what (or who) you can inchiodare this week.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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