I recently emailed a journalist friend in Berlin to ask what he thought about his country's chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her handling of the Ukraine crisis.

It was a work-related matter and I was keen to know how frustrated Mrs Merkel might be getting with Mr Putin, and how any future diplomacy might play out. His short reply took me by surprise."What is this scunnered? There is no such word in my English dictionary. I assume this is a rude word?"

I looked back at my email. Woops. Without thinking I had indeed used scunnered when speculating about Germany's attitude to this most serious of global issues. I explained to Daniel that this was a Scottish word, and supplied a number of possible English replacements: fed-up, annoyed, bored. None of these words really get to the true weariness of "scunnered", obviously, and I struggled to find a straight tranlsation either in English or German. I explained that the word was mainly used as an adjective, but could also be used as a verb or even, in some circumstances, as a noun. And no, it wasn't rude. Thankfully we had avoided an international incident, though the headline "Merkel: I've taken a right scunner to Putin" does have a certain ring to it.

The rest of our email conversation consisted of a competition to see which language - Scots or German - had the most descriptive words. I arrogantly assumed we would win hands down. After all, Scots is known for its wonderful, sometimes onomatopoeic character. Could dreich, peely-wally, wabbit or wheesht be beaten?

I should have known better - especially since I'm a keen learner of German. The language of Goethe and Kraftwerk can sometimes be difficult to get your tongue round (is that Scots calling the kettle black?) but it is packed with the most fantastic words. Take, for example, "kummerspeck" literally "grief bacon", which is used to describe the excess weight gained after an emotional trauma such as a relationship break-up.

Another word used by Daniel to make his case was "torschlusspanik", the literal translation of which is "fear of the gate closing", describing the worry that you are getting old and opportunities are slipping away. Cracking word, nein?

My own favourite German word, however, is "weltschmerz", meaning "world pain", which describes the painful feeling you get when the ideal world of your imagination doesn't match up to the reality around you. How precise and soulful.

In the end, Daniel and I decided in the end that it was a dead heat between Scots and German. A few days later I got another email from Daniel. "I'm totally scunnered with my landlord," he said. Wow. Fast learners those Germans.