This is a quote from Theodor W. Adorno’s Minima Moralia.

One can find it here in German:

Bei vielen Menschen ist es bereits eine Unverschämtheit, wenn sie Ich sagen.

Or here in English:

With many people, it’s already an exercise in shamelessness, when they say I.

Googling results mostly in this:

In many people it is already an impertinence to say ‘I’.

So what is the nuance of Unverschämtheit? Exercise in shamelessness and impertinence seem to be quite different. In the end of the day, it might be a question for Philosophy, but I’m not sure. There is not a lot of context but I presume one has to understand some Adorno-stuff.

  • impertinence is the translation of Unverschämtheit and shamelessness is its cognate. I wouldn’t say it’s a false friend, though, because it’s still very close in meaning, as far as I can tell.
    – Crissov
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 7:33

1 Answer 1


As a German native, I would translate it with effrontery:

With many people, it’s already an effrontery, when they say ‘I’.

I think that impertinence might fit better when compared with shamelessness. When hearing unverschämt in German, it’s a nuance more emotional (expressing a rage) than other words like e.g. schamlos, especially in spoken language.
Be aware that the original sentence is quite weird for a German and would really make him retain a short while as the chaining of sie and ich is a bit artificial.

  • 1
    I can’t agree with the sentence struture being awkward in any way, because it is the only grammatical way to structure the subordinate clause but otherwise nice answer and +1.
    – Jan
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 11:07
  • I like effrontery. I feel like the etymological -front- emphasises the emotional (rage) expression. But I agree with Jan: Why do you reckon that it is a "quite weird" sentence?
    – ste
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 13:30

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