Verschlimmbesserung (n.) German: An intended improvement that actually ends up making something worse. 

Oh those zany Germans! They have the most marvelous words! Leaving well enough alone is like not pressing the already lit elevator button. One just can’t resist. I suppose it is human nature* to not leave things alone but to tinker and poke about hoping to improve on the original only to make a mess of things.  For your edification and entertainment, here’s a few examples of Spo-verschlimmbesserungen.

The Dry Martini.  This classy cocktail consists of gin, vermouth (no rubbish please) and a cocktail onion or olive. There. That’s it. It is simple, eloquent, and tasty – like my men – or was, until people figured it had to be ‘improved upon’.  Alas, one can’t readily go to a bar and ask for proper martini with the assumption the bartender knows what they are doing. Alas, alas, you are asked do you want gin, vodka, or some other spirit. Then there are an array of colorful add-ons that have no business being there. Dry Manhattans are not too close behind in my catalog of complaints about corrupted cocktails.

Opera preludes.  This music was made to evoke a mood state in the listener prior to the curtain going up. The audience is to sit and use their imaginations to set the tone in time for the first scene.  “Never stage the overture” was a sensible rule until modern producers figured the audience would be either bored sitting there without something to see or they needed ‘help’ to understand what the music is about. More often than not one sees a dreadful tableau or an assortment of shenanigans that merely distract from listening to the music. This is the last thing Verdi, Mozart, and that crowd were trying to accomplish in the prelude. Sometimes I just sit there and close my eyes. Sometimes I actually wake to see the opera.

Hotel clocks. The average hotel patron wants three things from a clock: tell the time; play some music; wake me up at a time of my choice. A few simple on/off knobs etc. did nicely.  Last time I was in a hotel room the clock had more options on it than seen in a 747 cockpit. I could not even figure out how to correct the time. I ended up just using my watch.

Coffee. I don’t often buy any but when I do I cringe at the order counter as I view the myriad of options. My eyes cross when I overhear regular patrons of SB ask for a triple, venti, soy, no foam latte or something of that ilk. Urs Truly when he orders is looked upon as an object of suspicion.  Imagine the following:

Yes sir can I help you?

Yes I want a cup of coffee

(Long pause as if I just asked for a dead rat) What sort of coffee?

Just a cup of coffee… er… small.

(Another pregnant pause as the barista contemplates if they should call the manager)  Do you want that tall? 

No, just a plain small cup please

Nothing in it?

(Sensing we are recreating Monty Python’s Cheese shop sketch) No, I am fine with a plain cup.

Which coffee do you want plain?

(Sensing madness coming on) Oh, the house blend.

Shall I leave room for cream or sugar?

(Biting my tongue not to be snarky about the sottish sugar)

No, that will not be necessary. 

Oh OK then.

Small wonder I drink tea.

I could give some other examples of simple things bloated or altered to the point of Kabelsalat but it just depresses me.

Spo-fans are invited to leave in the comment section their personal favorite Verschlimmbesserung – provided you don’t mention medical insurance forms. 

 

*Especially if you are a Virgo.

Advertisements