Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2019

Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude, and Black . . . Thursday?

Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude, and Black . . . Thursday?
Schottenfreude

Ever read any Ben Schott? Name ring a bell? I remember unwrapping his tiny, strange book, Schott’s Miscellanies, one Christmas, then devouring it. I loved the absurdity of so many of his selections: taxes in late-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth England (The Hat Tax, Glove Tax, Dice Duty, Wallpaper Tax, and tragic Window Tax); Degrees of Freemasonry (including such titles as Scottish Knight of Perfection and Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret); and Some Left-Handers (which include Fidel Castro, M.C. Escher, and Bob Dylan), among an infinity of other miscellany.

Well, Ben Schott, has come out with another book: Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition. He has used German’s “capacity to form elaborate new compounds” to invent his own neologisms and add to the list of German “loan words” now common in English (think zeitgeist, doppelgänger, schadenfreude, etc.). To better understand the etymology and pronunciation of such Schott words as “leertretung” (stepping down heavily on a stair that isn’t there; void-stepping) and “tageslichtspielschock” (being startled when exiting a movie theater into broad daylight; day-light-show-shock), look at his Op-Art piece in the New York Times. Or, better yet, buy his book.

—Nicola Fucigna, Fiction Editor

Black Friday

Every year I look forward to the turkey with my grandmother’s non-traditional rice and fruit stuffing, my husband’s homemade pumpkin cheesecake, and, sure, time with the family is great too. But, the best thing about Thanksgiving for me has always been the morning after, or that crack of dawn shopping extravaganza known as Black Friday. Three generations of my family’s women (my grandmother, my mother and myself) wake up early, still groggy from the over-eating, and burn those calories in the best way possible: with a shopping marathon.  

With the advent of online shopping in the last decade, many don’t even have to get out of bed to partake in the commotion of amazing deals. Nevertheless, I am a firm believer in braving the crowds, standing in line, and rummaging through sale bin after sale bin. (And doing it online is just plain cheating!)

But lately, the special deals are starting earlier and earlier, so much so that now Black Friday seems to be turning into “Black Thursday.” In fact, the same phenomenon can be seen with Cyber Monday, which started on Saturday, and for some retailers, is still going. (This year, saw record-breaking sales both at the stores and online.)

While, on the one hand, these “extended” sales give enthusiasts more time to shop and theoretically diminish the crowds, on the other hand, they spoil the fun. Part of the excitement is the anticipation of the very moment of Black Friday. And when the awaited moment comes sooner and sooner every year, what happens to the excitement?

The bottom line is: I am philosophically opposed to starting Black Friday on Thursday night. My coping method, however, was to join the masses: we went night shopping at the mall on Thursday (which was insane, let me tell you!), and Friday morning shopping at the outlets (slightly less crazy, actually). If the world wants more time to shop, who am I to argue?

—Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Poetry Editor