Meaning: to make something worse by trying to improve it
2006 World Cup, the German Sommermärchen. The whole nation fell into a collective frenzy of joy within fractions of a second at the goals scored by Klose, Podolski and Schweinsteiger—total strangers were in each other’s arms on the fan miles.
Today, things are very different. In times of video review, we hardly dare to cheer impulsively anymore—because chances are that the goal will be disallowed after many minutes of discussion. After all, the efficiency-conscious Germans don’t like to waste their precious energy for nothing. All this fuss was supposed to make soccer fairer and more objective. However, the result is that not only are the emotions lost, but it also feels like there is more discussion about refereeing decisions than ever before. If you haven’t had an idea of what verschlimmbessern means—this one serves as a perfect example. Or you just think of one of the many cases where people looked worse than before after beauty surgery.
Without a doubt, it’s a powerful word that is sorely missed in other languages. Perhaps it’s because the term is virtually impossible to translate into English in a halfway decent way. My best attempt, “to forworsebetter,” would certainly be shown the red card by language aesthetes.