Is there someone who irritates you to the point of insanity? Does it feel like this person is sawing through your nerves every time they speak? In German, you would call them a Nervensäge.
A fusion of the words Nerven (“nerves”) and Säge (“saw”), the term describes someone who annoys, bothers or irritates you persistently – in a figurative sense, someone who cuts through your nerves. This might be a child who asks constant questions when you are busy, a coworker who won’t stop talking when you’re trying to work or a mother-in-law who questions you about every detail of your life.
The English phrase “getting on someone’s nerves” is closely related, but there is no equivalent for the German word Nervensäge, other than “nuisance” or “pain in the neck.”
Some people have more delicate nerves than others — making them more vulnerable to the effects of a Nervensäge. Others have a higher tolerance, and are only affected if a Nervensäge persistently pushes them to their breaking point.
A good – but rather dramatic – example of a Nervensäge is portrayed in the 1996 comedy film “The Cable Guy” (in German: Cable Guy – Die Nervensäge). In the film, a lonely cable guy named Chip tries desperately to befriend one of his customers, Steven. At first, all goes well and the two seem to be forming a normal friendship. But after a few days, Chip begins to bombard his new friend with voice messages (at one point, 10 in a row) and “runs into” him everywhere he goes. At this point, the cable guy has become a true Nervensäge that clings onto his new friend. He ultimately escalates to violence and stalking – which goes beyond the levels of a traditional Nervensäge – but throughout much of the show, Chip is a good example of someone who really knows how to “saw” through someone’s nerves.
You probably won’t meet anyone like the cable guy, but we are sure you’ve been around a Nervensäge – someone who just knows how to push your buttons. If not, then props to you for being so tolerant!
By Nicole Glass, German Embassy