For today’s word, I would like to thank the Germans. I never took German in school so it’s a delight for me when I encounter words that come from that language. It’s like a whiff of fresh air. A new-to-me language brings a new-to-me word. Sweet.
And that word is katzenjammer.
Katzenjammer is a noun that is based on two German words. The first German word is katzen which is plural for the noun katze which in English means cat.
Since katze sounds like our English word cats and since the meanings are the same, wouldn’t it fall to reason that jammer would be similar to an English word, too? So, what do you think jammer refers to — a sweet and sticky substance that we spread on bread (jam) or to play music with friends (to jam)?
Well, if you play music like I do, then the meaning of jammer is similar to the kind of musical jamming you do with friends.
Katzenjammer [kat-suhn-jam-er] is a noun that means a confused uproar. (Now you know what it is like when I try to make music — whether trying to tickle the ivory keys on my piano or caterwauling with other singers. . . )
Jammer in German means distress, misery, or wailing. So when you combine that wailing with the word cats, you get a confused uproar. Brouhaha, hubbub, uneasiness, and anguish are synonyms.
If your school teacher handed out an unannoucned test, students would errupt in a katzenjammer. They wouldn’t be happy at all. If politicians promised one thing and then voted a completely different way, their constituents could express their feelings with katzenjammer at his next public speech. If a child got grounded because he didn’t come home before curfew, he might wail in katzenjammer.
Katzenjammer also refers to a hangover.
When you yowl like a miserable cat — whether from the effects of excessive consumption of alcohol or from a very distressing situation, that, my Dear Reader, is katzenjammer!