‘Sitzfleisch’: Bottoms Down Can Lead to Bottoms Up

‘Sitzfleisch’: Bottoms Down Can Lead to Bottoms Up
(Fei Meng)
Jeff Minick
The Germans have a genius for word combinations, one of which is “sitzfleisch.” Constructed from the German for “sit” and “meat,” the literal meaning of sitzfleisch is, to put it politely, the human derrière.

Used in this sense, sitzfleisch affords us the opportunity to have some fun with language while appearing erudite as well. A mom tells her 16-year-old to knock off the video games: “Get off your sitzfleisch and go outdoors!” Her husband recounts telling an amusing joke: “The boss laughed his sitzfleisch off.” The teenager wants to put off mowing the lawn: “Gosh, Mom, I’ve got a horrible case of sitzfleisch today.”

Sitzfleisch also has two deeper meanings. It can describe a person who waits out a problem, hoping it will solve itself.

“Adam relied on sitzfleisch to get through his day as problems at work piled up.”

More often, however, sitzfleisch is a complimentary remark made about a diligent worker who completes a task, whatever the job and no matter how boring or tedious the work.

“That week, Eve worked long hours into the evening preparing the annual stockholder’s report, and she was later applauded by her employer for her sitzfleisch.”

This last interpretation of sitzfleisch is essential to success. Buckling down to a task, for instance, and seeing it through to completion is a key ingredient in the recipe for fame and fortune. Whether sitting at a desk or astride a horse, nearly all the figures we know from the pages of history were practitioners of sitzfleisch. They struggled and pushed and overcame formidable obstacles.

Sitzfleisch also grants the boon of self-satisfaction. The college student who nightly hits the books rather than partying with friends, the motel housekeeper who goes the extra mile cleaning rooms, the teacher who spends extra hours tutoring students—all sleep with a clear conscience, knowing they have gone above and beyond in completing their work.

Developing Sitzfleisch

Of course, summoning up this strength of will isn’t always easy. Sometimes, for instance, we must trick ourselves into the work. In my case, circumstances demand that I write a certain number of words daily. For the past year or so, putting my sitzfleisch into a chair at home for any length of time has proven difficult. I’ll tap away at the keys for a quarter hour or so and then find myself getting up to wash dishes, make a cup of tea, or phone a friend. Eventually, I found that I can break this rhythm of indiscipline by packing my laptop and myself into the Honda Civic and heading to my local coffee shop, where there are no such distractions.

We can also practice sitzfleisch by dividing our work into parts. The employer of a woman I know sits her down several times per week and gives her assignments. She handles this strain on her regular duties by making out a to-do list, prioritizing the tasks, and tackling them one at a time.

In addition, we can promise ourselves rewards for toiling away on some monotonous project, an hour or two that evening watching some television, reading a book, or playing with the children. These wells of refreshment ease our march through the desert.

In 1911, Mary Heaton Vorse gave this advice to a roomful of aspiring authors: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of a chair.”

The same art applies to any daunting task—preparing tax forms, building a wall of brick and mortar, or working double shifts at the hospital. Success comes when we saddle up and stay mounted until the ride is over.

Which is when we can raise our glasses and offer a toast to sitzfleisch.

Bottoms up!

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va.
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