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Gemütlichkeit (German pronunciation: [ɡəˈmyːtlɪçkaɪt]) describes a space or state of warmth and friendliness.[1] Other qualities include coziness, peace of mind, belonging, and social acceptance.

History and etymology[edit]

Gemütlichkeit derives from gemütlich, the adjective of Gemüt, which means "heart, mind, temper, feeling" expressed by (and cognate with) English mood. This German abstract noun has been adopted into English.[2] The current meaning of the word derives from its use in the Biedermeier period. By the second half of the 19th century, it also became associated with a set of traits supposedly unique to Germans and German culture. In the United States, the city of Jefferson, Wisconsin uses the phrase: "The Gemütlichkeit City" as its motto.[3]

The song The Bare Necessities from Disney's The Jungle Book (1967), where a cheerful Baloo explains how "a bear can rest at ease with just the bare necessities of life" was rendered as Probier’s mal mit Gemütlichkeit ("consider trying Gemütlichkeit") in the German version. As to talk of "bare necessities" has a certain ring of asceticism to it, the German text seems to convey Baloo's personality even more properly than the original, in spite of not rendering the pun.[citation needed]

The word can be used in descriptions of holidays.[4] In the 1973 English contract law case Jarvis v Swans Tours Ltd, a holidaymaker sued after not receiving the Gemütlichkeit promised by the promotional literature for a package holiday to the Swiss Alps.

The communal connotations of Gemütlichkeit are also emphasized in some uses of the term. For example, one academic described it as a tradition of "public festivity" (in the form of a "mixture of music, food, and drink"), which "promote[d] community solidarity."[5] The Harlem Renaissance was then cited as of how a sense of Gemütlichkeit arises from a "mix of music, art and politics in service of community consciousness".[5]

A less common use of Gemütlichkeit can be found in reference to the economic policy makers and analysts in the United States involved in influencing the decisions of the board of the Federal Reserve System. With respect to the "inflation dampening effects of globalization", a Georgia Southern University professor writes that interpreting certain U.S. economic trends could "spell an end of the Gemütlichkeit — a situation in which cheap labor and money abroad as well as ever-increasing productivity at home had permitted an uninterrupted spell of controlled growth in overall prices".[6]

Similar words in other languages[edit]

The Swedish language equivalent is gemytlig, directly derived from the German word and with the same meaning.

The Danish word hygge [ˈhyɡə] (hyggelig as an adjective) basically means the same as Gemütlichkeit, but Danish also has the word gemytlig, however it is hardly ever used (as the Swedish word, gemytlig is directly derived from German). Descriptions of "hyggelig" moments by two Danish visitors to the U.S. can be heard on a short Iowa Public Radio radio segment.[7] Likewise, in Norwegian the word translates into "hyggelig", but the meaning is closer to the word "koselig" which means cozy, comfortable, nice, or pleasant.[8] The Dutch equivalent "gezelligheid" has broader social connotations than the German Gemütlichkeit and can be more accurately compared to the Danish "hygge".

In Bulgarian, the word is commonly translated as уют [oˈjut] and [ʊˈjut] in Russian, which means cosiness, comfort, contentment, ease, and carries almost identical connotations as the German word.[9]

The English word closest to gemütlich is cosy and stems from the Scottish Gaelic word còsagach which means "1 Full of holes or crevices. 2 Snug, warm, cosy, sheltered. 3 Spongy", according to the authoritative Dwelly's great Scots Gaelic - English dictionary, in other words the opposite of the often hard, cold and wet environmental conditions of Scotland.[10] There are 5 other Scottish-Gaelic terms for cosy, depending on the context in which it is used.[11] The Irish term for cosy is cluthar (related to clutter), which can also mean secretive, as in the German heimelig (= English: homey) which is related to "heimlich", and for snug gcuinne,[12] related to the Irish Gaelic word cúinne, corner and chúinne, in the corner [13] Of note, Scottish-Gaelic and Irish-Gaelic dictionaries do not list a translation for the noun Gemütlichkeit (cosiness), only for the adjective, which indicates the more moderate and descriptive value the term has in the culture of the British isles.

Nevertheless, the English author Chesterton wrote in his 1906 book on Charles Dickens, that the English word "cosiness" is not translatable.[14] The context of the quote is a section in the first half of the seventh chapter on "English comfort": "The word "comfort" is not indeed the right word, it conveys too much of the slander of mere sense; the true word is "cosiness," a word not translatable." Chesterton may have given German and the above mentioned Continental nationalities short shrift momentarily, as much of the beginning of that chapter is a comprehensive description of what Gemütlichkeit stands for. On the other hand, Chesterton mentioned in the same chapter a few sections earlier, that "... the thing you cannot see out of Germany is a German beer-garden", an emblem of Gemütlichkeit. Thus the sentence may either reflect Chesterton's peculiar or idiosyncratic thought process or the term "not translatable" stands for the difficulty to find a synonym, to express the emotion of cosiness or Gemütlichkeit in words, also exemplified in the radio interview of Danish visitors quoted above.

The Romanic languages with Latin roots do not have a single term expressing the many connotations of Gemütlichkeit: In French on se sent vraiment bien ici, se mettre à son aise, agréable, sympathique are equivalents in terms of the social aspects, and tranquillement would be a synonym in terms of speed to describe Gemütlichkeit.[15] In Italian, comodità, aria di casa, tranquillità, familiarità and cordialità in reference to people might be used.[16] In Spanish agradable (agreeable), acogedor (inviting), cómodo (comfortable), lento and tranquilo (slow) in reference to speed, or bonachón in reference to a person would be used,[17] and almost identical equivalents in Portuguese [18]

In Turkish two words, rahat and huzur, are used for Gemütlichkeit [19]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^
  2. ^ Soanes, C. and Stevenson, A. (ed.) (2007). Oxford dictionary of English. Oxford University Press. 
  3. ^ "Jefferson Chamber of Commerce | in Jefferson, WI". Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  4. ^ Benjamin Lytal (2004-12-01). "Recent Fiction". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2007-11-16. Ms. Bielski's novel [The Year is '42] is quite good, a quick read that seems in sync with holiday Gemutlichkeit and holiday sadness. 
    * Gemütlichkeit PONS Online-Dictionary
  5. ^ a b John Fairfield (2006-10-05). "Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association". Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  6. ^ Michael Reksulak (2007-06-09). "Rising costs of necessities signal an end of Gemütlichkeit". Savannah Morning News. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  7. ^ "Enjoying Winter with the Danish Concept of "Hygge"". Iowa Public Radio. 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  8. ^ "translation Norwegian-Engish". Wiktionary. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  9. ^ "translation Russian-English". Wiktionary. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  10. ^ "Dwelly's great Scots Gaelic - English dictionary". Dwelly's great Scots Gaelic - English dictionary, online version. 1911. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  11. ^ "Am Faclair Beag. An English - Scottish Gaelic dictionary incorporating Dwelly". Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  12. ^ "google translate German-Irish". Google Translate. 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  13. ^ "Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, electronic version of Ó Dónaill’s Irish-English Dictionary". Ó Dónaill. 1977. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  14. ^ Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1906). "Charles Dickens". Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  15. ^ "Translations for Gemütlich in the German - French dictionary". Pons GmbH, Stuttgart. 2001–2014. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  16. ^ "Translations for gemütlich in the German - Italian dictionary". Pons GmbH, Stuttgart. 2001–2014. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  17. ^ "Translations for Gemütlich in the German - Spanish dictionary". Pons GmbH Stuttgart. 2001–2014. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  18. ^ "Translations for Gemütlich in the German - Portuguese dictionary". Pons GmbH Stuttgart. 2001–2014. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  19. ^ "Translations for Gemütlich in the German - Turkish dictionary". Pons GmbH, Stuttgart. 2001–2014. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 

External links[edit]