Katzenjammer

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By Harry Whittier Frees [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was stuck for a K word today, and where in this cruel wordless world would I turn for inspiration but my buddy Google? And Google suggested, among other less intriguing words, this one: katzenjammer.

Any stabs at what it means before we get to that below?

As you might have guessed from my out-of-alphabetical-sequence photo today, I immediately, immediately thought of cats in pajamas when I saw that word. Especially since Google offered it as “katzenjammers.”

Obviously not what it means, but, I mean, how cool would it be if Germans did have a word specifically for cats in pajamas? They gave us schadenfreude, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Katzenjammer German pronunciation:[ˈkaʦənˌjamɐ] is a German word literally meaning “cat’s wail” (caterwaul) and hence “discordant sound”, sometimes used to indicate a general state of depression or bewilderment. It has also been used as a term for a hangover, with the sufferer’s groans of discomfort being likened to a wailing cat.

Apparently there’s also a band from Oslo, Norway named Kaztenjammers, which is kind of an odd name for people who make music, but I guess it’s always good to recognize your limitations.

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U: The Power of a Prefix with Un

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Nope. I have nothing to do with post. I'm just a bird...UNrelated. Ha! Take that, "bird brain."

Nope. I have nothing to do with post. I’m just a bird…UNrelated. Ha! Take that, “bird brain.”

Quick reminder, if you need a brain massage, Aunty Ida is only 99 cents for a limited time! Warning: she practices deep tissue massage. Deep, deep tissue.

***

Done. Told. Easy.

Undone. Untold. Uneasy.

There’s something in the prefix “un” that takes a very hard, concrete word and softens the edges, releases the borders until it’s more nebulous. Take the first word in that series, “done.”

Feel how compact it is. In that single syllable, there’s completion. Done.

But stick “un” in front of it, and suddenly everything that was sure is now…unsure. Undone. Not a hint of how or how much, just that something that was whole is not anymore. Someone who was whole isn’t anymore. Undone.

“Told” and “easy” do the same. Told is one of those words without equivocation, it even has its when built in. Yet when “un” attaches to it, it morphs into something else entirely. Untold isn’t even the opposite of told, it’s its own independent creature. And when you think about it, makes sense, because “told” is so firm, it cannot be reversed. Untold can contain the universe.

Easy is soft and laid-back, but is still firm about it. There’s no argument with easy. Easy is as it is, and the world is smoother for it.

But uneasy.

Uneasy fills the corners full of shadows. Uneasy sends the clouds across the sun on an otherwise bright day. Uneasy twists the fine into something that isn’t.

Just two little letters can turn a word inside out and twist it into something entirely new. That is the mighty power of “un.”

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