Jalopnik’s own Managing Editor Erin Marquis just bought a new car. She loves it dearly, but it has already caused a problem for her. It’s a problem that we should have a word for, but don’t.
Erin put the problem quite well:
There should be a word for when you really want to drive your new car, but you’re afraid to take it out into a world that will inevitably scratch it, ding it and poop on it.
This is a problem that’s easy to feel, but hard to describe.
Certainly, anyone with even the most minimal experience of driving understands it. Take one trip on the highway and it’s easy to spot somebody texting behind the wheel, wobbling in a lane, forgetting to signal. Any time you’re downtown, you’re going to pass somebody struggling to parallel park, threatening to ding the car ahead or behind. Downed trees in storms. Potholes catching out the inattentive.
Everywhere we go, we see these little out-of-our-control problems happening to other people and we just know that they’re going to catch up with us eventually. It’s like driving down the highway and seeing a traffic jam going the other direction. We know our time is coming. The traffic comes for us all.
Erin furthered, “I bet Germans have a word for that.” This makes sense; Germans have a word for everything. They even have a specific word for somebody who has an annoying face that makes you want to punch them.
I set out to find this word and, much to my own disappointment, found nothing quite right.
There are a couple words that sort of come close, at least. There is the classic Weltschmerz, which describes a sadness about the unfixable shortcomings of the world. It literally translates to world-pain.
There’s also Autoangst, but that describes being afraid of driving, in terms of a phobia. There’s no inverse of that, where you trust your own driving but you don’t want the rest of the imperfect world to ding your pride and joy.
I delved a bit deeper into the German Wikipedia rabbit hole and couldn’t really find a good word for disappointed resignation. Germans have Gelassenheit, but that implies a kind of inner calm and a lack of stress. Aussichtslosigkeit, literally view-out-lessness or hopelessness is better, but I can’t find any direct car connection to it. There’s also a good German exclamation Wahnsinn (nonsense) that generally describes something being stupid and pointless and a lost cause, but it’s usually something you direct towards, I don’t know, something an idiot coworker did or some dumb politician’s plan.
So we definitely need a word for this uneasiness Erin has come upon. Your suggestions are welcome.