Why German Has So Many Great Words (The Conversation)



“In an essay describing the loathing that Ted Cruz’s face seems to inspire, the neurologist Richard Cytowic resorts to the German colloquial expression Backpfeifengesicht,” writes Bruce Duncan, Dartmouth Professor of German Language Emeritus, in a Conversation opinion piece about why the German language has so many great words.

The Cruz description, he writes, is “a combination of two nouns: Backpfeife (a slap across the cheek) and Gesicht (face). Together they indicate ‘a face that invites a slap.’ (Cytowic calls it “a face in need of a good punch” – close enough.)”

“With the efficiency of one word, a common sentiment is beautifully expressed. And in German, these words abound–from Ohrwurm (‘ear-worm’) to Wunderkind (‘wonder child,’ ‘prodigy’),” Duncan writes.

Read the full opinion piece, published 3/7/16 by The Conversation.

Office of Communications