Schwärmerei

There was a time when I thought this word literally referred to a coddled or shirred egg. It sounds so warm and soft and slushy and smarmy, like an egg (German Ei) swirled egg-drop style into a soupy swarm. Hmm, how could you make a recipe that would suit this word? Perhaps warm up a glass of Asbach Uralt (a wintry German brandy) with an equal amount of butter and a bit of honey until just steaming lightly, then drop a raw egg into it and swirl it slowly and gently with – not your finger, that would become uncomfortable, but perhaps something similar (someone else’s finger? No, no, um, how about a wooden spoon handle). Once the white is soft white and the yolk is just dreamy, I mean creamy, take it off the stove, splash in a bit of cold cream, and drink it.

I think, if nothing else, it might induce in you fairly soon a feeling of schwarmerei. If you feed it to a person with whom you are infatuated, you could hope that they too will feel the swarming warmth. And forgive you for using their finger to stir it.

Or you could just use eggnog. Made with brandy, rum, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream, rum, brandy, and I guess an egg. You will be sure to be filled with a swirling, swarming enthusiasm. Schwärmerei.

Oh, does this word have two dots on the a or not? Well, it depends on whether it’s had its glass of alcohol, milk fat, and egg. You can see the dots as an incipient pyrotechnic nimbus, or at least scotomata.

No, no, it depends on whether you spell it true to its German origin or not. Use two dots and capitalize, or leave the dots off and lower-case. But either way, the dictionaries tell me you have to say it the German way: “shver-ma-rye,” not “shwar-ma-rye” (say, how about some shawarma with those eggs? no?).

Well, that’s a pity. It sounds so much more like someone drunkenly saying “Sure I’m alright” if you say it the wrong way. It also sounds more like schwa, which is that lax neutral vowel we use in place of other vowels in unstressed positions, sometimes insert where it doesn’t belong (as some do after the l in film and athlete), and may be heard to moan incoherently when in the grips of Schwärmerei.

What is it, then, this Schwärmerei, and whence comes it? The word is the German word for what we would call swarmery if we used that word: swarmery is to swarm as foolery is to fool, bravery is to brave, or cookery is to cook. The root of swarm and schwärmen (the German verb source of this word) is the same, way back. But in German it came to have a more figurative sense, an internal sense, more of an intense warmth (swarmth?), an enthusiasm. An infatuation, even. Sentimentality, headiness, excessive warmth of feeling. Zeal. A crush. Your brain and emotions go swirling and swarming and surely warming as though you had just coddled them with fat, cholesterol, sugar, and alcohol.

Your head feels heavy (German schwer). Your mind is slipping into a pipe dream. It is delicious. Yes, yes, you swear: more, aye, more Schwärmerei.

One response to “Schwärmerei

  1. It’s very fun to read James. The ‘finger’ bit is just touch of genius sense of humor..very vivid and picturesque tasting of an otherwise unknown(for me at least) and rare word. Many thanks for sharing James.🙂

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