I need expend no words explaining why this book was the first of my 2014 acquisitions to be picked up after successfully completing the TBR Triple Dog Dare. I probably needn’t explain how the book ended in my TBR either but I will explain just how irresistible the title was. Schotten (Scots) – Freude (joy) – What on earth is a book about the joy of the Scots doing with a German title? Except it doesn’t mean that at all. It means the joy of Ben Schott, a non-German speaker, who together with Dr Oscar Brandtlow, obviously had a whale of a time inventing German compounds nouns to explain the human condition.
This explains the unusual/unique shape of the book. German compound nouns can be grow to inordinate lengths. Here are a couple of examples:
Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss : The enjoyment afforded by the smell of a new car. (See footnote)
Überraschungspartyüberraschungsheuchlerei : Feigning surprise at a surprise party.
Not all the words are that long. Here are some examples at the other end of the spectrum.
Fußfaust : Instinctively curling up your toes in mortification at someone else’s embarrassment
Betttrug : The fleeting sense of disorientation on waking in a strange bed.
German speakers will obviously delight in this volume, but you don’t need to be a German speaker to enjoy it. For example, a German speaker would instinctively pick up the word play on the German words Bett (bed) and Betrug(fraud). However, the construction of and meaning of each German word is clearly explained thus:
Puns and idioms are explained on the adjacent page together with a miscellany of general information about the condition in question. The resulting layout and design is an absolute pleasure and the sum total is sometime hilarious, but always clever and entertaining.
Miscellanies are Ben Schott’s speciality. His obvious delight in compiling this book was matched by my obvious delight in reading it. But can I summarise my experience in one word? I’ll think about that while you watch this recent discussion between Ben Schott, the quinessential (non-)German cultural icon @Neinquarterly and German translator Tim Mohr at the Deutsches Haus in New York. A treat, if ever I watched one.
And finally, my one word summary: Fünfsterneleseerlebnis
Footnote: Not simply “new car smell” as translated in the book.