Better Than English: Untranslatable Words defines the Yiddish word farpotshket as “Something that is all fouled up, especially as the result of attempts to fix it–repeatedly making something worse while trying to fix it.” It is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable.
This term rather well described me when I took wood shop in 7th and 8th grade. A minor wobble in one leg of a project would eventually become three legs that could not bear the weight of the creation.
There was a 2005 National Public Radio story The New Words and Ideas We Need sings praises of the word: “The art of trying to fix something only to make it far worse is described by the Yiddish word farpotshket. Can you think of a word that sounds more complicated, muddled and frustrated than farpotshket? It’s like a Frankenstein of obscenity, created from different parts of a dozen swears. The next time you reach to brush a piece of lint off your date’s shirt, then spill the bottle of wine on their pants, try screaming, ‘Farpotshket!’ It’s far more satisfying than a hundred curse words.”
Both the Urban Dictionary and definithing describe the word farpotshket as Completely ruined as a result of attempts to fix a minor imperfection. “Don’t try to fix that tiny smudge! You will make the entire painting farpotshket.”
The painting reference, of course, reminds me of that famous story of Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) in the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja, Spain. It was an unremarkable painting, but the attempt to restore the fresco by Cecilia Giménez, an untrained elderly amateur, in 2012, made it international news. Oddly enough, the botched repair has made the site a major tourist attraction.
When do YOU experience your farpotshket moments? Do you get it right the first time, or do you settle for “that’s good enough”?