Germany went out of the Soccer World Cup on Wednesday ... but at least they have some very big words to console them.

The German language provides a practical lesson in word-smithing.

They often make a new word by joining a bunch of existing ones together. This sometimes makes very long words that leave little room for the rest of the sentence.

They also have a knack for creating very short words that carry whole paragraphs worth of meaning.


Angst is one example – it means worries but of a sort of fearful, scary type that is often linked to the idea of Weltschmerz or world pain - a sort of existential injury that is bigger than any one place or country.

There may be a some weltschmerz now that Germany is out of the Soccer World Cup finals while other countries will be revelling in "Ein bisschen schadenfreude" that they are no longer the champions.

I am not sure we have anything equivalent in NZ English but we do like a bit of existential moodiness.

We get grumpy about the little things that irk us but seem to unable to gather much enthusiasm for the big stuff.

There was a story about some people in Auckland complaining about the police helicopter being noisy over their suburb. This may indicate an over-valued sense of privilege — another version of NIMBY (not in my backyard) or what is called a Nidiot (known idiot).

Do these people not want the police helicopter whirring overhead when their car is stolen? Talk about a tone-deaf person playing the moral banjo very badly.

Instead, the citizens of Remuera need to organise the dis-organised crime so that it all takes place between 9am and 5pm in business hours on weekdays so there is no need for the police to be buzzing the skies overhead at night.

Auckland crims are obviously an inconsiderate lot and are not thinking about the residents of Remuera as they go about their nefarious night-time escapades.

The big stuff, such as holding children in camps at the United States border seems to have escaped the NZ gaze. We should be outraged at such practices in countries that call themselves our friends, demanding that our government voice this dismay on our behalf.

Maybe as a nation we are all prone to bouts of CKS – complicated karma syndrome. The symptoms are the sudden onset of consequences that we have not foreseen then scrabbling to find someone to blame.

A recent favourite was the prisoner upset that the system had not rehabilitated him — he thought that this was not his task and that it should be done for him.

This kind of absurd sense of entitlement surfaces in many and various ways.

We see it in the road range at the traffic lights. It happens when people dismiss the rights of others, and clamour for more when many do not have enough. It is there in the way we expect all things to come to us as of right while forgetting that social inequities require us to do more.

It is as if we have lost sight of kindness, thoughtfulness and the fact that we all in this world together.

There is a long German phrase for this — Zwischenmenschliche Beziehung. It sounds grand and, in its own way, it is.

It means the relationships between people — a European version of the saying: "He aha te mea nui o te ao?" ("What is the most important thing in the world?")

"He tangata, he tangata, he tangata" — "It is the people, it is the people, it is the people."

*Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician and social worker — Feedback: