Messie, der

A post on Language Log invites comment on whether German has a friendly word for mess. Which brings us to the huge inroads in the last few years of der Messie, a term which has an almost loveable ring to it in the German language.The success of the book Messie No More brought messie into German as a handy term for defining a person whose messiness as a matter of personality or culture, not of failure.

Are there other terms where the German language describes mess affectionately and encourages a tolerant attitude towards it? Definitely. We did a little brain storming today around a breakfast table in Germany and came up with plenty of words that can be used to describe a mess of possessions in a positive light:

  • Krimskrams
  • Krempel
  • Sammelsurium
For a garden that is in a mess, one only needs to declare that it is naturbelassen. There's also a wealth of robust, humorous and colloquial phrases in defence of a mess on your desk:
  • "Das ist kreatives Chaos" (very common; the witty, post-modern variant is "geordnetes Chaos")
  • "Hier wird gearbeitet" (you can buy this on placards to permanently hang over your mess)
The idiomatic wie bei Hempels unterm Sofa is perhaps not positive, but implies that one's mess is more a matter of cultural attitude than of failure.
The hidden roomful or closet of mess is the Rumpelkammer, a fairly neutral word that is related to der Rümpel (junk), and this brings us to entrümpeln, a lovely German word for getting rid of junk. Look up the Yellow Pages under Entrümpelung and you'll find businesses that clear out homes where the tenants are too sick or too dead to do it themselves (much more efficient and sometimes more profitable than holding a Flohmarkt).

Der Messie is capitalized and given male gender and does not, so far, seem to inflect other than as plural die Messies.

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