Word of the Day – “die Enttäuschung”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: March 24, 2022


Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And this time, we’ll take a look at the meaning of

die Enttäuschung

Starts with ent and if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan like I am, chances are that you’ll think of the Ents in Lord of the Rings.
You know… these tree beings that put and end to Saruman’s hold on lands.
Which is a REALLY great transition because…

…German ent- kind of does the same.
Like… enthaaren which means to remove hair or entwickeln  which literally means to unwrap. The actual translation is to develop because, I guess, unwrapping is basically removing an envelop… envelop, develop. Envelop, develop. That is kind of dumb though, when you think about it … as if fridges, computers and the string theory have always been there and humanity just unwrapped them. German is really dumb sometimes. Hey, if all humans are the humanity, are all authors the authority? And the ice bears  the ice bearity? Just wondering… I really can’t focus on German today. Where was I … uh yeah, ent… part of its meaning is putting an end to things.
And so we get to täuschen.
Täuschen is the core and heart of Enttäuschung and it means…  but oh no.
Of course Emanuel will have us suffer through some boring history first. So ,the origin of täuschen is a word tiuschen which meant “to fool someone into something”.  And for a while, tiuschen was also a word for to trade. Haha. Yeah. I can see that. There is quite a bit of cheating going on in trade. However, using the same word for fooling someone and trading maybe isn’t such a good idea. Doesn’t build much trust, I guess. So the bastard tiuschen soon split into a light and a dark side. The light side is  tauschen. Now, this split happened before money got to dominate all the trading which is why tauschen today basically means to exchange. I give you something, and you give me something in return.

  • Wir tauschen Telefonnummern.
  • We exchange phone numbers.
  • Früher gab es viel Tauschhandel.
  • Back a few hundred years there used to be a lot of barter (exchange trade).

The German word for the money based to trade is handeln. So, tauschen is the light twin. The dark twin is täuschen. It has been stripped of all notion of trading or exchange and only the fooling part remained. That’s why it today means to deceive.

  • Ich täusche dich.
  • I fool/deceive you.

There is also a reflexive use of it, which is quite common. You basically deceive yourself about a matter.

  • Ich habe mich in dir getäuscht.
  • I deceived myself about you. (lit.)
  • I was wrong about you.

So, this was the history. That wasn’t as boring as I thought actually. For once. Now, we have the parts ent with its meaning of ending things and täuschen as to deceive. So enttäuschen should literally be

  • to undeceive

Let me see what it really means… oh my god… check this out. It means

  • to disappoint

Wow. This is explains so much. My god. So when they want to say:

  • You have disappointed me.

they are actually saying:

  • You have undeceived me.(lit.)
  • Du hast mich enttäuscht.

Or when they want to say this:

  • I am disappointed.

they would say:

  • I have been undeceived… or in other words… I see the truth now.
  • Ich bin enttäuscht.

Like… as if reality is mostly worse than the expectations. I don’t know about you but in my opinion this totally shines a new light on the German meh-ness.  You know… this lack of excitement. Like… you walk up to your German friend and say

“Hey,  we’re going to this cool lake and we’ll have a BBQ, swim, sing songs
and drink beer while the sun sets. You have to come. It’s gonna be AWESOME!!!!”

and he or she is just like

“Hmmm, I don’t know, we don’t have a grill, do we? Is that even legal to
BBQ there, is the water of the lake clean enough to swim there, is it even
legal to swim there, there are probably mosquitoes, I don’t really do BBQ
because the grease drips
 into the fire and the smoke of that can cause cance

Now I understand. In their view, reality is… well…  sub-optimal. Or… a dismal bitch. And when something sounds all too pleasant… or just a bit pleasant…  then it is likely just a deception. They don’t want to get their hopes up so the certain let down will be gentle. Because as long as they are not disappointed i.e. undeceived, they are … deceived.
Okay, I don’t know if I am really making sense right now, but seriously. The word enttäuschen did evolve that way – from undeceive to disappoint – but as of today, most Germans aren’t aware of that connection at all.  It feels like two completely separate verbs. Maybe like cover and to discover. The connection is super obvious and still not everyone is consciously aware of it.
So… the verb enttäuschen means to disappoint and of course that means that the noun is disappointment.

  • Der Film war eine große Enttäuschung.
  • The movie was a big disappointment.

And there adjectives derived from the verb, too.

  • Der Film war enttäuschend.
  • The movie was disappointing.
  • Ich bin sehr enttäuscht von diesem Film.
  • I am very disappointed by this movie.

The last example also shows the preposition that comes with it… it is von. You’re “disappointed von”. I think I’ve seen also über in that context but von is the proper one.
And that’s it. Thank god, it was that short. I mean… there were some interesting bits here and there but by and large today’s word was a disappointment for me. But there’s a good side to it because now I know never to get my hopes up. Emanuel just keeps promising things and then never delivers. But now I know better. What’s that? Noch is coming really really soon? And the secret of fluency too? Yeah right, all that’ll  secrete fluently is my nose probably. And … oh my god, these puns. Can someone please tell him to stop. I’m out of here but let me set you up for 7 days of pleasant surprises.
Your week will suck!!

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