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Embarrassment felt on behalf of someone else (often someone so ignorant to what they have done that they don’t know that they should be embarrassed for themselves); vicarious embarrassment.
Word donated by Glenn
Nice one! “die Fremdscham” is the noun describing the phenomenon, and “das Fremdschämen” describes the process of being ashamed for sb., and there is also “sich fremdschämen”, a reflexive verb, which perfectly conveys that the shame felt falls back on oneself and is felt for the other person by the guy who is shamed for the other one….
I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the reflexive before, although it would have been a more precise phrase to have used in the context I was first exposed to the word. Very interesting!
Do you know if it’s a divisible verb? Not being a native speaker, both “Ich schäme mich fremd” and “Ich fremdschäme mich” sound slightly ridiculous to me
In spanish, we say “pena ajena”
In Dutch, we call it ‘plaatsvervangende schaamte’.
Glenn, it is indeed a divisible verb:
“Ich schäme mich fremd”
But I think at least the verb can be translated in an understandable way – English speakers would certainly understand “I am ashamed for someone else.”
Funny how the best known German untranslatable word (to English) is Schadenfreude, and here we have another actually useful psychology-related untranslatable German word.
There is a Finnish equivalent to this too, by the way, “myötähäpeä”. Seems to be a translation from the German, though, as it’s a compound word that literally means something like “sympathetic shame”.
To cut in there…it actually simply “fremdschämen”, no German would say “Fremdscham” or “Ich schäme mich fremd.” That’s because it’s a fairly new word, coined during one of the seasons of the German version of the Idol Franchise (named “Deutschland sucht den Superstar”), which expressed the feeling of the jury about the performance of some of the people who tried to participate. It actually descripes the feeling someone gets when someone acts so idiotic, that it stops being funny to watch him fail and you instead feel uncomfortable.
Glenn: The most common phrases would be “Da muss man sich ja fremdschämen.” or “Da konnte ich mich nur fremdschämen.”
In Spain “vergüenza ajena”.
[...] pillow (normally a pillow Swedes hide their faces behind while watching something that induces Fremdscham, but also handy for when assaulted by too many [...]
There’s a subset of reddit devoted to this feeling, and they call it “cringe.” Not sure if the majority of English speakers would associate the word with this specific context though.
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