• katzenjammer •
kæt-sen-jæm-êr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An uproar, a racket, ruckus, commotion. 2. A hangover.
Notes: If you live in the United States, you may still be following the antics of the Katzenjammer Kids in the comics (or funny papers). The Katzenjammer Kids are a couple of raucous boys named Hans and Fritz, who were drawn to trouble as though it were a magnet. The comic strip is translated in several languages: in the French version, Pim, Pam et Poum, they are Pam and Poun, in Denmark they appear as Knold og Tot, in Italy they are Bibì e Bibò, and in Norway they are Knoll og Tott. In other European languages they generally keep their original names.
In Play: There is usually a pejorative connotation to today's Good Word: "The boss left town so he wouldn't have to face the katzenjammer when everyone opens their bonus envelope." When used to refer to a hangover, it generally implies a pounding headache: "I woke up this morning with such a katzenjammer that I made a New Year's resolution never to step inside a bar again."
Word History: We know exactly whence and when this Good Word entered the language. It came from the title of a comic strip, first created by Rudolph Dirks in 1897 for the New York Journal, but then syndicated in newspapers throughout the country. The Katzenjammer Kids is still distributed by King Features, making it the longest-running comic strip ever that is still in syndication. The word comes from German Katzenjammer "hangover", but it is made up of Katzen "cats" + Jammer "misery, wretchedness, wailing". It is evocative of the ruckus cats make, especially during mating season. Yes, it is related to English yammer. (Let's hope that Brock Putnam's suggestion of today's Good Word will not result in any katzenjammer.)
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