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Feb 28, 2011
This week's theme
Words borrowed from German

This week's words
sitzfleisch
ersatz
lebensraum
diktat
schwarmerei

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What comes to mind when you think of Germany? German engineering, of course.

Germans are known for it -- putting together little pieces to build magnificent objects, big structures, manufactured precisely to help us make sense of the world. Yes, I'm talking about German engineering with the language, their acumen in combining words to make even longer words, words such as weltanschauung and gotterdammerung.

This week we'll see five words we've imported from German, words big and small.

sitzfleisch

PRONUNCIATION:
(SITZ-flysh, ZITS-)

MEANING:
noun:
1. The ability to sit through or tolerate something boring.
2. The ability to endure or persist in a task.

ETYMOLOGY:
[From German Sitzfleisch, from sitzen (to sit) + Fleisch (flesh). Earliest documented use: Before 1930.

NOTES:
Sitzfleisch is a fancy term for what's commonly known as chair glue: the ability to sit still and get through the task at hand. It's often the difference between, for example, an aspiring writer and a writer. Sometimes the word is used in the sense of the ability to sit out a problem -- ignore it long enough in the hope it will go away.

USAGE:
"Some prominent seats go to those with prominence. Others go to those with Sitzfleisch, like Representative Eliot L. Engel. Every year since 1989, the Bronx Democrat has won a prime spot at the State of the Union Address simply by showing up early and sitting in it."
Elizabeth Kolbert; An Aisle Seat In the House or the Titanic; The New York Times; Jan 30, 1998.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
To know how to say what other people only think is what makes men poets and sages; and to dare to say what others only dare to think, makes men martyrs or reformers, or both. Elizabeth Rundle Charles, writer (1828-1896)

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