FW: katzenjammer: M-W's Word of the Day

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Tue Jan 30 15:18:49 UTC 2007

    I enjoy Merriam-Webster's daily Word of the Day e-mails (distributed free for the asking) but would suggest a possible correction to today's item, Katzenjammer.  I say "possible" because I don't find it in my two standard dictionaries of German etymology, but I do remember reading somewhere that the "Katze(n)" part of Katzenjammer was originally "kotzen" (= to puke). Kotzen fits the idea of a hangover very well, but since it's a rather vulgar word, the similar sounding Katzen was euphemistically substituted for it.

Gerald Cohen


From: word at m-w.com [mailto:word at m-w.com]
Sent: Tue 1/30/2007 4:16 AM
To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
Subject: katzenjammer: M-W's Word of the Day

The Word of the Day for January 30 is:

katzenjammer   \KAT-zun-jam-er\   noun
    *1 : hangover
     2 : distress
     3 : a discordant clamor

Example sentence:
     The morning after the wedding, Pamela woke up with a blinding katzenjammer.

Did you know?
     Have you ever heard a cat wailing and felt that you could relate? Apparently some hungover German speakers once did. "Katzenjammer" comes from the German "Katze" (meaning "cat") and "Jammer" (meaning "distress"). English speakers borrowed the word for their hangovers (and other distressful inner states) in the 19th century and eventually applied it to outer commotion as well. The word isn't as popular in English today as it was around the mid-20th century, but it's well-known to many because of the "Katzenjammer Kids," a long-running comic strip featuring the incorrigibly mischievous twins Hans and Fritz.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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