[By Nic Lindh on Wednesday, 06 March 2013]
Here’s a new and necessary loan word to be included in American English: Rechthaberei. Yup, it’s German, like Weltanschauung and Schadenfreude. It combines the word for “right” and the word for “have”—so, a person who is right (correct) or person who has the right (legally).
Or, if you don’t mind stepping out of the loan word comfort zone a bit, the Swedish enhanced alternative is rättshaverist, which came from the German but by happy coincidence the archaic word for “have” meaning “to be in possession of” was a homonym for “crash,” meaning you can picture a person capsizing on the shores of justice.
Not to be needy, but so far the only Swedish word I’ve seen commonly used in American English is “smörgåsbord.” A second one would be nice. And since we actually one-upped the Germans on this one, it only seems fair to get the nod.
So what does it mean? Rechthaberei is a pejorative term for a person who believes himself to be in the right on a certain issue and is pushing the issue beyond what is reasonable. This is the person who came down on the wrong side of a Home Owners’ Association decision a few years ago and who now writes letters to the editor about it and shows up at every HOA meeting to air his grievances and is just too torqued and just can’t let things go and above all is right, dammit while everybody else is uncomfortable and hopes he’ll go away soon without things spiraling even more out of control.
There’s more than a bit of self-destructiveness to the Rechthaberei.
For a fun exercise that will prove me right (rimshot), spend some time reading the Internet or, if you want to go old-school, the newspaper, and see how many articles you find that involve a Rechthaberei.
We need this word. Let’s put it into service.