These syndromes, coming down with them in any other language just won’t do.
1. KEVINISMUSAt some point in the last couple of decades, parents in Germany started coming down with Kevinismus— a strange propensity to give their kids wholly un-German, American-sounding names like Justin, Mandy, Dennis, Cindy, and Kevin. Kids with these names tend to be less successful and have more behavior problems in school. Studies of the Kevinismus phenomenon attribute these effects to a combination of teachers’ prejudices toward the names, and the lower social status of parents who choose names like Kevin.
2. FÖHNKRANKHEITFöhn is the name for a specific wind that cools air as it draws up one side of a mountain, and then warms it as it compresses coming down the other side. These winds are believed to cause headaches and other feelings of illness. Many a 19th century German lady took to her fainting couch with a cold compress, suffering from Föhnkrankheit.
3. KREISLAUFZUSAMMENBRUCHKreislaufzusammenbruch, or “circulatory collapse,” sounds deathly serious, but it’s used quite commonly in Germany to mean something like “feeling woozy” or “I don’t think I can come into work today.”
4. HÖRSTURZHörsturz refers to a sudden loss of hearing, which in Germany is apparently frequently caused by stress. Strangely, while every German knows at least 5 people who have had a bout of Hörsturz, it is practically unheard of anywhere else.
5. FRÜHJAHRSMÜDIGKEITFrühjahrsmüdigkeit or “early year tiredness” can be translated as “spring fatigue.” Is it from the change in the weather? Changing sunlight patterns? Hormone imbalance? Allergies? As afflictions go, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is much less fun than our “spring fever,” which is instead associated with increased vim, vigor, pep, and randiness.
6. FERNWEHFernweh is the opposite of homesickness. It is the longing for travel, or getting out there beyond the horizon, what you might call… awaysickness.
7. PUTZFIMMELPutzen means “to clean” and Fimmel is a mania or obsession. Putzfimmel is an obsession with cleaning. It is not unheard of outside of Germany, but elsewhere it is less culturally embedded and less fun to say.
8. WERTHERSFIEBERAn old-fashioned type of miserable lovesickness that was named “Werther’s fever” for the hero of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. Poor young Werther suffers for the love of a peasant girl who is already married. Death is his only way out. A generation of sensitive young men brought made Werthersfieber quite fashionable in the late 18th century.
9. OSTALGIEOstalgie is nostalgia for the old way of life in East Germany (“ost” means East). If you miss your old Trabant and those weekly visits from the secret police, you may have Ostalgie.
10. ZEITKRANKHEITZeitkrankheit is “time sickness” or “illness of the times.” It’s a general term for whatever the damaging mindset or preoccupations of a certain era are.