Schrecklichwissen: Terrible Knowledge


Just now, I was having a conversation with a colleague about the complexity of dealing with unicode in JavaScript Regular Expressions. Basically, what he once thought of as a very simple topic has now become so incredibly complex that he is now overwhelmed, all because he made the mistake (out of necessity, of course) to learn more. In his words, “…and now stuff is all broken, I was blissfully unaware.”

It reminded me of my experience with the incredible complexity of color management in digital imaging for print and the web. Before I learned that I should be using the sRGB color space and a 2.2 gamma for my web-bound photos, I just thought that a JPEG image was a JPEG image, and that was that. Now that I’ve been down the seemingly infinitely deep rabbit hole that is color management, I can’t look at an image without asking myself if its colors are correct, and if they aren’t, is that due to mismatched color profiles, or perhaps the fact that I might need glasses… or something else entirely.

What I’m getting at is that there ought to be a single word that expresses this concept, the concept of “terrible knowledge.” This is knowledge that, once learned, can’t be unlearned (but that you really want to unlearn). Like finding out, as a child, that Santa Claus doesn’t really exist. Or that the girl you had put on a pedestal with your hopeless 11th-grade crush was really a skank that gave it up to any jock who scored her a couple of beers. Or that unicode in JavaScript Regular Expressions isn’t easy, and never will be.

Now, while I don’t speak german, I know the Germans seem to be pretty good at this kind of thing. They gave us the fabulous word “Schadenfreude” which means “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” I know this because I’m a man of the world, having seen Avenue Q twice.

So, being a geek, I fired up Google Translate. And because I got “schrecklich” for “terrible” and “wissen” for “knowledge,” I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest the completely fabricated fake-german word “Schrecklichwissen” means “terrible knowledge” and that we should all start using it all the time, to express our frustration with learning far more than we ever wanted to.

But since I’m pretty new at making up foreign words, if you have any better ideas (or know of an actual word that does the job) please let me know in the comments. Why not post an example of “schrecklichwissen” you have encountered as a web developer? That could be fun.

Also, if you know of any Boston-bound musicals that are as awesome as Avenue Q, tell me!

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