IF YOU’RE looking for a single word to sum up something that requires lengthy description in English, chances are you’ll find it in another tongue.
Everyone knows schadenfreude is the German term for taking pleasure in others’ misfortune, but the Jerries can get even more detailed than that: they have another word, scheissbedauern, which describes the disappointment you feel when something turns out to be not nearly as bad as you’d hoped.
If you’re on the prowl for a good reference book to help in this regard, we highly recommend one of our favourite tomes of all time, Leo Rosten’s The Joy of Yiddish.
Our word this week, for a variety of reasons, is a Yiddish term – chutzpah, which Rosten defines as “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts,’ presumption, plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to”; his example is “a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.”
And there are plenty of examples of chutzpah in action this week, believe us. One live contender for the top of the pile is the Australian whiners who weaseled their way into the Winter Olympics (sorry, there was a sale on Ws at the Consonant Shop).
Fiona De Jong, head of international tantrums – sorry, director of sport for the Australian Olympic Committee – addressed the core issue: “There are five rings in the Olympic insignia and the continent of Oceania deserves to be there. These girls are the best in Oceania.”
The continent of Oceania deserves to be there because of rings on a flag? I don’t remember the French tricolour having an Adidas Jabulani on it, but never mind. A lucrative career as a legal mastermind surely awaits De Jong.
The John Terry situation/love quadrangle has also thrown up a live contender for gall, brazen nerve, etc, etc, in the last few days.
Not in the shape of the player himself, whose character was lacerated succinctly by Dave Bassett (“The problem is John Terry’s a wrong ‘un,” said Bassett. “He’s masquerading as one of the chaps but he ain’t because this shouldn’t happen.
“Of course you have players misbehaving when they’re married. But they aren’t doing it to a team-mate’s missus. That’s off bounds. It sticks in the throat.”
Nice image: we’ll leave it at that, thanks).
No, the chutzpah on display here is in the deranged performances of outraged sponsors, shocked commentators, and disappointed supporters, though only if the words “outraged”, “shocked” and “disappointed” are interpreted as “hypocritical and sanctimonious”.
Terry’s fame rests on his ability as a centre-half, pure and simple. You’d probably like him to be a moral exemplar, and good company on a long train journey to boot, but those are bonus features, not parts of the essential package. He’s a sportsman, not a saint. Enough of all that quacking about morals.
However, our man of the week, without a shadow of a doubt, is Mr George Lee, late of Leinster House.
What, you may ask, is the man for (not quite) all seasons doing here, rather than out towards the front of the paper?
It may have escaped your attention that Lee’s new/old employers, RTÉ, are bidding farewell to their Gaelic games correspondent, Jonathan Mullin, who is to join the Racing Post. This leaves a vacancy within the organisation, and surely, after conquering the worlds of economics and politics in rapid succession, sport must be the natural next stop for George.
If you think Jack O’Connor and Brian Cody looked a little put out at times last year when braced with post-game questions, wait til the man who put the dismal in the dismal science gets a mike in front of them.
As we say in Yiddish...
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