Friday, November 18, 2011

Sascha’s German Neologisms

Living languages need and subsequently bear new words mostly for terms our ancestors didn’t know. Luther when translating the Bible into German created neologisms for Latin words like Morgenland (land where the morning sun rises) for orient, Schauplatz (site where something can be looked at) for scene, Ehrgeiz (craving honor) for ambition, and Vorhaut for prepuce. Question: Was the English word foreskin known before the German Vorhaut?

Later in the middle of the 17th century a guy called Philipp von Zesen fought the pernicious influence of French on the German language and created words like Abstand for distance, Anschrift for adresse, Mundart for dialect, Leidenschaft (creating suffering) for passion, Rechtschreibung for orthographie, and Emporkömmling for parvenu.

American English words that are nowadays adopted in German are mostly due to technical developments in spite of the fact that in many cases German native words exist but are rarely used. For to browse the old German verb stöbern could be revived, Klappliste could replace the drop down list. I personally find it difficult having learned computers in an English speaking environment to integrate the perfect German term Festplatte for a hard disk into my vocabulary.

Sascha Lobo in 2009
(©Mattias Bauer/Wikipedia)
Sascha Lobo
, a Spiegel columnist, recently published a book with 698 new German words for many new situations in life*. Most of those creations are based on hackneyed English like e.g. Talkoholismus for an illness many politicians in Germany suffer from attending too many talk shows. Other new words Sascha proposes are just translations from English like Einling for single. Here are more of his interesting creations:

Affärmann is the male part in an affair playing on the resemblance with Fährmann (ferryman).

Unterlastung the contrary of Überlastung (overload or overstrain).

The neologism verversprechen is playing on the German double meaning for versprechen meaning a promise or a slip of the tongue. The new word actually means that a promise of a politician before the election was just a slip of the tongue.

Dreifel is a superlative of Zweifel playing on the words zwei for two and drei for three.

Namnesie is the illness progressing with age not being able to remember names from Amnesie (amnesia).

Schnice a German brew of schön and nice.

With komplimieren we may have a German verb for to compliment rensembling the pronounciation of komprimieren (to compress).

Ultratasking is the superlative of multitasking.

The German word Eifer for zeal, favour, eagerness now has a new form iFer. It is the obsession to be the first acquiring the latest Apple gadget.

Many of Sascha's 698 neologisms are either just fun or nuts. On the other hand he has pointed out the need for creating new and fitting words for all situations. He calls for adding to the classical three educational Rs (Reading, writing, 'rithmatic):

Rechnen und Lesen,
Schreiben und Zesen,

thus honoring Philipp’s efforts in the 17th century.

*Sascha Lobo, NEON: Wortschatz: 698 neue Worte für alle Lebenslagen, rororo, November 2011

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