06 October 2022

Schlimmbesserung: A German word that academics need to add to their vocabulary

I have a new entry in my list of German words I like:


According to Holly Tuten,  it means, “Something that was meant to be an improvement, but actually makes things worse.”

How useful is that? Especially to academics, who often believe that every suggestion reviewers make for a manuscript is a Schlimmbesserung.

It could also be a useful word in biocontrol efforts. What was the introduction of can toads into Australia if not Schlimmbesserung? In fact, I had found people talking about “cane toading” years ago to describe this phenomenon. But it’s nice to have

It is not my favourite German word, though. My favourite German word is “Backpfeifengesicht.” Roughly, a face in need of a punch.  

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