About the name Zeitlangers

When we read the descriptions below, we knew that was the name we had long been seeking for this site.

Posted on the wordsmith.org website:

"A reader wrote:

    Dear Anu,

    Some time ago I wrote to ask if there was a word in any language for a parent who has lost a child. My husband and I lost our son in the insane war in Iraq. You sent me a kind reply saying no. I am submitting this Pennsylvania-Dutch word, zeitlang, I found in the paper.

    I shared it with some other Gold Star families who liked the word and description. Yesterday was Gold Star Mothers Day. I hate it. Everyone in the family is suffering, not just the mother. I like the sound of this Pennsylvania-Dutch word, perhaps because of my German heritage. So my family, my brothers and sisters in sorrow and I remain forever zeitlangers.


    Diane Davis Santoriello
    Proud mother of 1st Lt. Neil A. Santoriello KIA 9-13-04

The English language has the largest vocabulary of any language but there are moments when all those hundreds of thousands of words in a dictionary might as well be random scribblings with little meaning. We can't find a single word to describe what tugs at our hearts.

Pennsylvania Dutch is a dialect of German spoken by 17/18th century migrants from south Germany and Switzerland who had settled in Pennsylvania. The word Dutch here is a variant spelling of Deutsch (German language). Zeitlang in German means "a while" (from Zeit: time + lang: long). The sense mentioned in the newspaper article is not found in German, but that doesn't mean one can't extend it. After all, that's one of the ways a language grows. And what good is a language if it can't give voice to our deepest sorrows and joys? "

Here is the newspaper article referenced:

 NICKEL MINES, Pa. (AP) - The English language does not have words equal to the task of describing the intense grief a parent feels when a child dies. To capture that emotion, some of the Amish families who lost five children in the West Nickel Mines School shootings turn to a Pennsylvania Dutch word. Zeitlang. It means a keen yearning - some describe it as a homesickness - for a little girl whose empty dress now hangs in her room, the older sister who no longer chatters with her little sisters at bedtime, the smiling child gone from her chair. "There's a hole," one mother says. "It goes through you every day, what's missing. You just long to see her. You just have to have her here."

Zeitlangers seems an apt description.

We cannot make that zeitlang go away, nor should you want it to.
But know that we think of you. Parents, wives, husbands, children, brothers, sisters, other family, friends, and loved ones -
all are Zeitlangers together.

Not Available
1st Lt. Neil Anthony Santoriello
24, Verona, Pennsylvania
08/13/2004 (I)

Killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his mounted reconnaissance patrol vehicle in Khalidiya, Iraq, on August 13, 2004
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