Saturday, April 10, 2021

Still Life with Robin: A Useful New Word -- But Not For Long!

Image by Wikimedia - Creative Commons

by Peggy Robin

The good news this week is that covid vaccinations will be available to any DC resident age 16 and up starting this Monday, April 12.

I just learned a new word that may not be very useful for very long. And that’s a good thing, too. The word is impfneid – and it’s the German word for "vaccine envy."

All winter long, people who were not yet eligible to be vaccinated – or WERE eligible but could not manage to snag one of the coveted appointment slots – would learn of their friends who’d already had their shots – or they’d see Facebook photos of people smiling as they held up their CDC vaccination card – and instead of feeling happy for them, they’d feel the sting of jealousy. No wait, it’s more like a jab than a sting. A jab of jealousy for not getting the jab of inoculation.

Trust the Germans to come up with a word that encapsulates a myriad of negative emotions in one consonant-heavy mouthful. It’s like schadenfreude, but in reverse. Instead of feeling happy at someone else’s misfortune, you are unhappy to learn that someone else is protected, and you’re not.

But that’s all about to change, starting Monday, as vaccination opens up to all adults in all states – and non-states like DC.

Of course, it may take a few weeks for all who want the shot to secure appointments, so there may still be some weeks of impfneid ahead of us.

Want to learn more about the origins of this word? I got it from a wonderful podcast about language called “A Way with Words” – and each week the show covers a plethora of odd phrases, idioms, nonce words, and other linguistic oddities and delights.

The impfneid segment is here:   

The full episode is here:   

And the website for the series is here:     

If you end up waiting in a long line to get your shot, I recommend passing the time by listening to some episodes of the show. Here's one that's especially appropriate -- it talks about people who say "waiting in line" versus "waiting on line" -- -- but I do hope your line is not too many episodes long!  

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays. 

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