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  • Today, I sat in a conference listening to women speak in German. My German is business fluent so I didn't have a problem understanding what the women were saying but sometimes, a word or a phrase will throw me off and I worry that I missed something or worse, didn't understand anything at all.

    This worry hit me in the second workshop. Sitting in the back, I listened to the presenter talking and wrote my notes in English until she wrote the word schweinehund on the board.

    What the heck is that? Pigdog? I grabbed my phone and texted a friend.

    What is Schweinehund? I wrote.

    In what context? He wrote back. (This is a typical reaction from Germans for almost any word)

    Context? She just said her Schweinehund doesn't let her do something.

    Hmmm, Schweinehund means asshole.

    Her asshole wont let her do something? Why is she hanging around with assholes?

    What is she talking about? He wrote.

    Well before Schweinehund showed up, she was talking about defining what you do for work so that others understand what you do and so you feel confident but then Schweinehund showed up and that is the last thing she wrote on the board.

    I have no clue. He wrote.

    Puzzled, I left the workshop and went to the next and the next.

    A few hours later, I sat next to my German friend Petra and asked her what Schweinehund meant.

    "In what context?" she asked.

    I explained to her what happened and she jumped up.

    "Lets go ask her."

    Following Petra out of the room and into the lobby, we spotted the speaker and asked her what she meant. She said she was talking about her inner Schweinehunde.

    Do you mean inner critic? I asked

    "It is half pig half dog" said a woman at the next table.

    "No. It's not an inner critic," another woman said glaring at the women who described the animal, " It is that thing inside you that stops you from doing something."

    "Fear?" I asked.

    "No. It is the thing that stops you from doing something you have decided to do. Something you mentally wanted to do but this thing gets in the way and stops you."

    "You should invent an English word for this." Said the women who described the physical features of the pigdog.

    I smiled and shook my head. English does not need a word for this. Just like Schadenfreude, I think Schweinehund should not be translated but should be used just the way it is. It isn't lazy. It isn't a couch potoato. It is something more sinister. It is a pig dog that lives within you and takes away your desire to accomplish things.

    So, watch out!

    (Note: No pest control services have been created to eradicate Schweinehunds so if one has taken residence, I think you will have to make him your pet.)

    [photograph by Emmy Ann Horstkamp of Burgenland Mangalitza pig not schweinehund]
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