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I have encountered this sentence in the film Man of Steel:

Deine Mutter und ich waren ein Produkt der Ver­säum­nisse unserer Welt, genau wie Zod.

In Duden, they give this meaning:

etwas, was jemand nicht hätte versäumen, unterlassen dürfen; Unterlassung

Which doesn't make sense in this context. It means somewhat "failure" but I can't find this meaning for the word "Ver­säum­nis". What does it literally mean? Please help.

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  • @a_donda Ver­säum­nisse unserer Welt certainly does not refer to failed contraception
    – Arsak
    Jul 11 at 21:04
  • There's a long quote of that scene on imdb that provides some context. According to that quote, the English original is "Your mother, Lara, and I were a product of the failures of our world as much as Zod was."
    – Arsak
    Jul 11 at 21:17
  • @a_donda It gives some context - but does not really explain the word Versäumnis (or why the translator opted for Versäumnis out of all possible translations). Hence I don't think it's enough for a good answer.
    – Arsak
    Jul 11 at 23:47
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Ver­säum­nis is a failure when:

  • You know there is a problem (poverty, lack of social well-being, crime)
  • It is assumed you know how to fix it (when talking about world or society it often means: Adhering to the ideology of the speaker)
  • The time to fix the problem has passed, at least for the characters relevant to the speaker.

In those cases it becomes a failure of omission.

Deine Mutter und ich waren ein Produkt der Ver­säum­nisse unserer Welt

So to back-translate it to English:

Your mother and I were a product of the failure of our world to fix (in time) the problems we already knew we were having (as a society).


In other cases Versäumnis is negligence, an oversight, or even a deliberate omission if resources are too constrained.

In German legalese Versäumnis is also used if you are non-compliant with a ruling on time.

A related word is when you are defaulting on a credit rate, or you passed a work deadline: säumig (defaulting / delayed), säumiger Schuldner (defaulting debtor)

If you are too late for a movie you are zu spät, but if it is over when you arrive at the cinema you have versäumt the movie.

All säumig words imply that the chance to fix something is over and you have to face the consequences. Which is why it is a good choice by the translator to convey the meaning of the English scene.

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It's a failure but only in the sense that somebody failed to do something that they should have done. So they dind't fail AT it, they failed to do it at all (whatever "it" is). Maybe the most literal translations in this sentence would be shortcomings or ommissions.

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If you miss something by mistake that you shouldn't have missed or forgotten, then you've versäumt it.

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In the context of your sentence, "Versäumnis" means failing ("versagen"). To explanation better, your sentence can also be:

Deine Mutter und ich waren ein Produkt des Versagens unserer Welt, genau wie Zod.

So it mean your mother and I would have better not done it, just like Zod, because apparently Zod is also a failure.

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I'd say in this case 'Versäumnis' means 'shortcomings' 'deficits' 'inadequacy'. And the phrase philosophically also refers to the human nature being imperfect and life being written by series of accidental circumstances.

'Versäumnisse' here is about things missing, not things done wrong.

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