The Germans must have a word for this

Here’s the blog post I was drafting Wednesday:

Dear 5D & 24-70: I don’t know what I did to make you disappear, but on the off chance you read this blog, please come back. I miss you very much.  — Love, J.

I was utterly bewildered by it, but I’d begun slowly coming to terms with the disappearance of my camera and big, stupid-expensive lens. The pair had been MIA since Halloween, and all the king’s horses, children, wife, babysitter, and cleaning lady could not find them again.

Thus on Wednesday evening I found myself at San Jose Camera, checking out 60D’s, 7D’s, and stupid-expensive lenses. I was all set to ask your advice on the matter (how’s the 17-55 2.8 lens? are live view and/or a swiveling screen worth a damn? should I maybe go Nikon overall?), and I’d secured a cam or two to borrow from the Photoshop QE locker (one of the best perks of this job). After mourning my loss, I’d started getting excited about having features like video capture.

And then, what do you know, as I was talking to my wife about it at home, my eyes wandered into the china cabinet (never lit except, oddly, at this moment), into a crystal serving bowl… and to the camera!!  Our elderly sitter later remembered that she’d stowed it there while the boys were roughhousing–then utterly forgot about it.

And thus we come to the Germans*: Doesn’t it seem they should have a term for “Relieved delight in one’s good fortune, tinged with vague disappointment, seasoned with guilt regarding the disappointment”?

In any case, I’m looking forward to getting the big rig back in action. It’s true I shoot much less with the SLR these days, and yet when you need to nail a shot (e.g. with family visiting for the holidays), “accept no substitutes.” I just can’t miss any more kid photos when the iPhone or even the S95 takes its sweet time to fire the shutter.

Welcome home, boys.

*Interesting read: “A Joyful & Malicious History Of ‘Schadenfreude’“: “By leaving Germanisms untranslated, one always points to the sentiment expressed by the word as fundamentally and even organically German. My favorite, ‘Vergangenheitsbewältigung,’ means roughly to overcome or to come to terms with the past… In Gravity’s Rainbow, Pynchon notes ‘the German mania for name-giving, dividing the Creation finer and finer, analyzing, setting namer more hopelessly apart from named.’ Naming is not only a form of identification or labeling, but also of creation. To the eye, mouth, and ear, capacious German words seem to embody and externalize the weight of difficult emotions.”

17 thoughts on “The Germans must have a word for this

  1. Well you story reminds me of many episodes of – I store it here safely so I will for sure find it again… and then finding it by chance years later.
    Unfortunately there is no specific german word for your story other then we could come up with one (as we can do in german) …
    Erleichterungsglücksschuld – translates to the guilt of the fortunate relief
    A little bit forced but could work :0

  2. I think the Germans call that feeling “Freitag”.
    [Oh, and here I thought that was just a Rebecca Black song. –J.]

  3. LOL! I love this and have a gajillion stories like it, relating to my two girls. I don’t know how old your kids are but I’m guessing this isn’t the end of the story.
    [Not in the least, I’m sure: I could’ve mentioned using “Find My Phone” last year to locate an iPhone bleeping piteously from deep within the recycling can. –J.]
    A realignment of being will take place. Cheers.

  4. Ha, funny. I lost my beloved camera once on Halloween as well. I was certain that I had left it at the pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay and after 5 months, relented and bought a new one. Then some months later, I found it at the bottom of the bag that I used to take my costume home from work (came home and stuffed it in the closet, so somehow never thought to look there). The nice benefit of finding it and getting all those cool shots I took at the pumpkin patch back was I now had a spare that acted as my backup when batteries ran low.

  5. About Live view: I have found that is great when you are taking star pictures and you want to manual focus (because you can’t autofocus on the tiny dots) and if you don’t have a hard stop at infinity on your lens. Instead you can zoom the live view in on a bright star and make sure it is sharply in focus. Works better than my eyes through the viewfinder.
    [Good to know–thanks. I kind of like the idea of holding the cam at waist height & composing shots via the viewfinder, but I’m told that focusing is terribly slow in that mode. (What exactly constitutes “slow” & “fast,” and how my 6-year-old 5D compares, I don’t know.) –J.]

  6. Ha Ha.
    I don’t know the word for your feeling, but I know the word for the phenomena: poltergeist!
    > poltergeist comes from the German words poltern (“to make noise”) and Geist (“ghost”), and the term itself literally means “noisy ghost”
    > (wikipedia)
    They seem to multiply around little kids 🙂
    It’s always nice to be on the recovery end of the lost ‘n’ found pendulum.
    Happy Photolidays (You see… we can concatenate English just like German)

  7. Yeah… yeah… stupid germans.
    Amazingly, some words are missing in the german language; “sanctimonious git” springs to mind. Has no translation… who would have thought.
    [Um, no… But I guess in your case, the “humorless” stereotype applies. Thanks for missing the point, then getting all butt-hurt about it. –J.]

  8. As an old-school ‘optical viewfinder or nothing’ sort of guy, I have been surprised to find how cool Liveview is. I do a lot of photography of unpredictable people in public where Liveview is just too slow to focus and shoot, however if it’s used in a pre-focus then shoot within that zone way, then it really is nice though unpredictable and low percentage; a bit like shooting an old TLR Yashicamat.
    Liveview comes into its own for tripod mounted work where composition and focus needs to be slow and deliberate.Deadly accurate focus can be assured.
    Given the situation you’ve found yourself in, then I feel you ought to find a face-saving compromise. Buy yourself, or better still arrange for your children (with your credit card) to buy you, a Fujifilm X100. It is a wonderful engaging camera that fits perfectly in-between your iPhone’s camera and the inconveniently re-found 5D. Here’s one of the most articulate reviews I’ve seen for any camera. Reading it and looking at the photos re-connects anyone with the urge to search for meaning through the simple act of taking a photograph:
    And that annoying German word…could it be Erwartungsreue?
    Adrian Malloch

  9. If I had left and forgotten the camera myself I would have half-jokingly attributed it to “Alzheimer”. Which may not be so funny after all for some.
    As for slow focusing in live view: people typically only use it for still images. Seems to be out of the question for anything that’s moving. Normally I try to focus before switching to live view.

  10. For future reference: I sold my 24-70 f/2.8L to get the 17-55 and have been very, very happy. My results convinced my 7D wielding friend to do the exact same. Smaller, wider, sharper and with IS. Brilliant.
    Glad you found your kit!

  11. >John: But I guess in your case, the “humorless” stereotype applies
    I had forgotten about the project laughlab but stumbled on it by coincidence yesterday.
    I really recommend a look despite my misusing it in this thread…
    Page 6 of the final report (PDF) is interesting:
    “We analysed the data from the ten countries that rated the highest number of jokes. The following ‘league table’ lists the countries, in the order of how funny they found the jokes:
    Most funny:
    1. Germany
    2. France
    3. Denmark

    8. USA

    Least funny”
    “Americans and Canadians much preferred gags where there was a sense of superiority – either because a person looked stupid, or was made to look stupid by another person, such as:
    Texan: “Where are you from?”
    Harvard grad: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.”
    Texan: “Okay – where are you from, jackass?” ”
    “Interestingly, Germany was the exception. Germans did not express a strong preference for any type of joke – this may well explain why they came first in our league table of funniness – they do not have any strong preferences and so tend
    to find a wide spectrum of jokes funny”
    I enjoyed re-reading that especially in view of you quoting that old stereotype. Oh, wait, I feel superiour, doesn’t that make me american? Blast.
    [If you somehow think that my post had anything to do with feeling superior to anyone, then you too have failed to get the joke. As I tried to illustrate via the footnote, non-German speakers are endlessly fascinated (and generally charmed) by long, extremely specific German terms. We encounter these through things like philosophy classes, and we marvel that a language could devise highly technical language for often abstract emotions. In my experience, the rationale for this fascination is often lost on Germans, who evidently just hear the words as normal parts of language. That’s fine, but it has nothing at all to do with feeling superior to anyone. –J.]
    Best regards

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