There's got to be a German word for this

I’m 51.
40 years ago I was 11.
40 years before that was 1938.

10 year old me has more in common, temporally, with 1938 than with modern me. OK, just a simple math thing, right? But this is where it gets weird, for me anyway. Even though I was arguably more aware during the leadup to Now, things of today feel more alien to me than things from the late 30s/early 40s–when my dad didn’t even exist.

I don’t normally notice it until I’m faced with something dating from about WWII until the mid-60s. Getting up close to the old space hardware at Kennedy Space Center, for instance, or maybe just rummaging through some seriously old stuff at an estate sale. And then it hits me like a truck that I am really uncomfortable in my own skin, almost to the point of wondering how I got to be a middle-aged dude, well into the 21st century.

It might just be that things were simpler then. It’s way more intuitive to understand say an old Wiley’s Jeep transmission than a CVT today. Looking at a coal fired power plant, you can very easily understand what’s happening. A photovoltaic cell? A much less intuitive thing. We’re really at the point where technology has advanced beyond the capabilities of a single person. Edison in his lab just isn’t a thing anymore because it’s not possible for it to be a thing. Look at the Nobel Laureates from the early 1900s and these are the smartest guys in the world and you can pretty much get a grasp on their discoveries without too much background needed. Then look at the Laureates today and half of what they are saying seems like gibberish unless you really dedicate yourself to understanding it.

Change, and the RATE of change, might be a factor.

I was just thinking precisely this. The rate at which things change these days is positively blazing fast - I think I saw it put once that people in my age range (which I believe is, erm, about just young enough to be a millennial but not old enough to edge into the generation before) have gone, in our entire lifetimes, from a world where technology was nice but perhaps not everyone had it, to one where it’s become vital to the world we live in and deity forbid you don’t have at least the dumbest smartphone you can get your mitts on. And all of that in just perhaps thirty-odd years or so. So this younger generation is accustomed to things changing so quickly; previous generations aren’t and I reckon a lot of them feel they’re being left in the dust.


Well, maybe. But I was referring more to the mental disorientation caused by all that.

Fine. veränderungsgeschwindigkeitbeschleunigungverwirrung

You might achieve Veränderungsgeschwindigkeitbeschleunigungverwirrungermäßigung by not worrying too much about it.

For the psychological phenomenon you encounter, the word is Entfremdung. The almost exact translation is alienation.

But for fun, I’ll construct a new, more exact word for it:


Even better, Veränderungsgeschwindigkeitsbeschleunigungsverwirrungsgelassenheit, if you’re really cool about it.

It’s times like this I both wish I’d picked up German, and am glad I never did.

I have a very good friend whose principle role in the relationship is to keep me from crawling too far up my own butt when I start courting the occasional existential crisis. He’s got a master’s degree in German history, and is reasonably fluent. After patiently hearing me out, he gave me a long hard look and suggested scheidenentzündung.

I think I see where this is going… :slight_smile:

Homer says:

As a middle aged dude, as per OP, you are safe from that at least.

This is why I love the SDMB!

There is occasionally an extra level of fun to be had, when google translate is your only reference point.

“Veränderungsgeschwindigkeitsbeschleunigungsverwirrungsgelassenheit” becomes “Rate of change accelerating confusion serenity” which makes perfect sense.

But “scheidenentzündung” for instance, becomes “divorce inflammation.”

You are thinking of Scheidungsentzündung. Scheidenentzündung, on the other hand, means ‘vagina inflammation’. You mess with the German language at your peril.


Angst covers a multitude of agonies. As does Weltschmerz.

There is a word for a feeling different from what the OP references, but also related to growing older: Torschlusspanik is the feeling of options and opportunities slipping away as one grows older, e.g. for women who hear the biologicl clock ticking louder and louder. It relates to the closing of city gates for the night - if you were too late, you stayed outside.

Speak to Google; I just copied it in and reported the result.