Schlimmbesserung/Verschlimmbesserung

I am perhaps rather late to discover the new English word Schlimmbesserung (should be Verschlimmbesserung).

I saw it on Susan Hill’s blog today, but to comment there I would have to register. It’s used by the guest blogger, Robert Matthews.

But Google reveals more instances. I wonder if it started in Howard Rheingold’s Book They Have a Word for It, which I happen to have here because someone gave me it – I am a bit allergic to these collections of spurious terms from all world languages:

The time is ripe for that good old German word for improvements that make things worse: Schlimmbesserung (sh-lim-BESS-air-oong). While perfect for many egregiously inappropriate applications of technology, Schlimmbesserung is by no means limited to technological “improvements.”

But no, I find 2005 instances online.

The thing is, Verschlimmbesserung makes more sense in German, with the ver– prefix indicating a change.

Still, I suppose if Germans can amend the English language (body bag), English speakers should be able to amend German too.

It’s amazing what you can learn on the internet. A favourite word of Einstein’s! From Dyneslines:

Schlimmbesserung is a rare, but useful German term to designate an effort to make something better that actually makes things worse. According to Sebastiano Timpanaro, the brilliant Italian philologist, the term originally derived from the exacting discipline of textual criticism.

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