Simanaitis Says

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THE GERMAN LANGUAGE is great at word-building. For instance, I recall the following storefront signage.

Image from German Language Workshop.

Come to think of it, my source for this photo, translated into German, is another good example of its word-building: Deutschesprachwerkstatt.

Word Deconstruction. The same technique works with the etymology of Fussbodenschleifmaschinenverleih. Fuss = “foot,” as in Fußball. Boden = “ground.” Together, they’re “floor.” Schleif = “grinding.”

Attach them to an easy German/English cognate, and you can see that Fussbodenschleifmaschinen are floor-polishing machines. Verleih = “rental,” so we now know what this business offers.

Related Etymology. I wondered if maybe the leih part might be a kin of the English word “lease.” But this turns out to be what students of French call an ami faux, a “false friend,” not a cognate. The German word leihe means “lending.”

According to Merriam-Webster, the English word “lease” is related to Middle English les, from Anglo-French lesser. Lesser means to “to leave, to hand over,” tracing back to Latin’s laxus, “slack, loose.”

Hmm…. Slack, eh? In something of an etymological U-turn, Merriam-Webster links Middle English slak with Old English sleac, akin to Old High German slah, all meaning “slack,” and related to Latin’s laxus and even to Greek’s λαγνοσ, lagnos, meaning “lustful.”

How did lust get into this? Especially in light of λαγν, lagn being Greek for “laughing.”

A Word Game. This reminds me of a game linking the Seven Dwarfs with the Seven Deadly Sins. As described in Elon’s Fairy Tale Files, some of the pairings come naturally: Grumpy/Wrath, Sleepy/Sloth, and maybe Doc/Pride. I’m pleased that both Elon and I chose Happy/Lust. Just like the Greek words.

Back to Deutchesprach. What got me into all this is an entertaining piece in The New Yorker, December 30, 2019. Susan B. Glasser wrote about “Our Year of Trumpschmerz.”

Just as Shadenfreude has entered the English language complete with its Germanic capitalized noun S, so has Trumpschmerz describing what Glasser calls “the soul-searching worry” that will likely continue until the evening of Tuesday, November 3, 2020. She says that a German friend concocted the extended version, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz with the logic discussed here today.

Regierung means “government.” Schlamassel describes a “slow-motion car crash of constant controversies.” And Schmerz is “the continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all.”

Image from The New Yorker, December 30, 2019.

We already know what the Trump part stands for. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020


  1. Paul M Everett
    January 12, 2020

    Here is more fun on the Latin “laxus” and French “lesser,” from some sleuthing (!) in the Greek lexicon (Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon)
    Lagaros (λαγαρος): slack, hollow, sunken
    Lagarizomai (λαγαριζομαι): To be slack or gaunt through hunger, starve
    But also:
    Lagchano (λαγχανω):
    1. To obtain by lot, by fate, by will of the gods
    2. To get ones share of, become possessed of
    3. To draw (i.e. obtain) the lot
    4. To put in possession of a thing
    5. To fall to one’s lot or share.
    All that seems to have a connection with “lease.”
    Sorry, but I’m not funding the word for “laugh” in there.
    Ain’t etymology fun? Thanks for all the fascinating, stimulating posts!

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