Sunday, February 16, 2014


Already Mark Twain noted: The German language is awful but many English speakers envy us for the possibility of combining old words making new ones.
Here I am neither referring to the well known but artificial: Donau/dampf/schiff/fahrts/gesellschafts/kapitäns/mütze nor to the 127 letter word for the financial debt of the Federal Republic of Germany amounting to zweibillioneneinhundertfünfundzwanzigmilliardeneinhundertfünfundzwanzigmillioneneinhundertachttausendzweihundertzweiunddreißig
(2,125,125,108,232) euro and rising.

Each year German linguists at the University of Frankfurt choose the Unwort des Jahres, the ugliest or monstrous word of the year. In 2012 I was wrong with my guess Altersarmut (old-age poverty). The elected word instead was Opfer-Abo: Frauen haben vor Gericht und in der öffentlichen Meinung ein Opfer-Abo (women have a subscription to being victims in court and in public opinion).

In 2013 the chosen Unwort was Sozialtourismus (social tourism) meaning that poor people with many children from Southern Europe will travel north to profit from the financial benefits of Germany's social security system.

I just read that there exists even a Peta-Unwort. With Peta being the suffix for 1015 I initially assumed that it stood for an enhancement like, Mega, Giga, and Tera but then I learned that PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. With this knowledge I understand the German Peta-Unwort for 2013: Pelzernte meaning the mass-killing of mostly young animals to harvest their furs.

©Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache
Well, not all new words are ugly. The Society for the German Language elects a word of the year describing a complex situation by a newly formed word or expression. As my loyal readers already know; the short word in 2013 was GroKo. The word I liked or rather dislike mostly only came in fourth place: Zinsschmelze meaning that with inflation and the present interest rates you see your money in the bank melting down like snow in the sun.

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