The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016


Torschlusspanik describes the agitated, fretful feeling we get when we notice time is running out. The heart pounds, the nape of the neck prickles, as the deadline approaches. Yet, we’re stuck, bewildered by choices and terrified we’re about to make the wrong one. Life, and all its abundant opportunities, is passing us by.

Literally translated from the German as “gate-closing-panic,” Torschlusspanik was coined in the Middle Ages. Seeing a rampaging army approach, and knowing that the castle gates were about to close, travelers and shepherds flung their belongings aside and stampeded across the drawbridge to safety.

Nowadays, the closing gates we rush toward are metaphorical. But the blind panic can be no less grim. Germans most often use Torschlusspanik to describe the feeling some women experience of being terrorized by the tick-tick-tick of a biological clock. Heightened by the scaremongering of newspapers and fertility ads, baby panic can rattle even the sanest of minds (see also: BROODINESS). But Torschlusspanik can also refer to any of those reckless, heart-in-mouth decisions we make because a deadline is looming, or because things seem scarce, whether impulse buying a pair of shoes just because the shop is closing, or putting a last-minute bet on a horse race. This is why the Germans remind themselves that Torschlusspanik ist ein schlechter Ratgeber. Torschlusspanik is a bad adviser.

See also: FEAR; PANIC.