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Chris -- 2011-03-08

#1 2013-04-14 14:11:23

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2203


English borrowed the term “Katzenjammer” from German in the nineteenth century. The lifted German word referred to a hangover, specifically a hangover headache. “Katzenjammer” is compounded from the word for cats (“Katzen”) and the word for misery/distress/complaint (“Jammer”). The aftermath of alcoholic debauchery can indeed feel like a rawcuss alleyful of felines caterwauling their misery in your head.

The borrowed term was popularized in English by the phrase “Katzenjammer Kids,” the title of a comic strip syndicated in the Hearst newspaper chain during the first decades of the twentieth century. While the source word continues to be popular in Germany, often employed with the more general sense of a headache, “katzenjammer” seems to be on the wane in English.

Is “katzenjammer” a hidden eggcorn in English? Some English speakers may see/hear in it the word “jam,” either in the sense of “jam a signal” or in the sense of “traffic jam.” Drinkers everywhere will understand the relevance.

We have, as illustrated in the excerpts below, a few English speakers who substitute “-yammer” for the “-jammer” in “Katzenjammer.” These could be phonetic spellings by people who know the German word (which would be pronounced “kah-tzen-yahm-mer”), but they may also be importations of the English “yammer” into the German-derived word. Both the English “yammer” and the German “Jammer” are, to be sure, derived from the same Teutonic forebear. The English word, however, has evolved a sense that does not always include the notion of misery/distress/complaint that adheres to the ancestral word and the German cousin.

Music forum: “Surely most of us can hear a katzenyammer (cacaphony) when we hear it”

Blog entry: “Germany’s far left media however are scared shitless and the katzenyammer over “Rechtspopulismus” ... never seems to end.”

Tech forum: “ Just wait ‘till something goes wrong and you have to service the katzenyammer of circuitry, wires, connectors, sensors and assorted plugs. ”



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