Is there a German word for "the feeling you get when something is so ridiculous that you want to laugh, yet is simultaneously jaw-droppingly horrible"? Can we make one up?
I ask, because I recently discovered Fox-Tossing, a 17th/18th century European pastime that is exactly what it sounds like. People would go out in a field and set up a little fenced-in court. Then high-society types would stand, in pairs, holding slack ropes. Then a bunch of foxes would be released into the court. When the foxes ran over the ropes, the players pulled the ropes tight, launching the foxes up into the air. Repeat until all foxes are dead.
Aren't you glad we can rot our brains with TV now, instead?
According to the Ptak Science Books blog:
Fleming's Deutsche Jaeger (published in 1719) produced this (above) image, and commented on it: "Skilled male tossers could toss a fox 24 ft. high...At a famous fox-tossing in Dresden there were tossed some 687 foxes, 533 hares, 34 badgers, 21 wild cats, and at the end 34 young wild boar and 3 wolves...."
And a partridge in a pear tree. 10:00 am isn't too early to start drinking, right?
UPDATE: Resident German commenter Tillwe has offered a couple of possibilities: First, "fürchterliche Witzigkeit" (lit. frighteningly funnyness). He/she says that captures the mood best, but, to pack it all into one word, we could use "GrausamkeitsspäÃŸe" (lit. "funny cruelties").
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.