Monday, January 4, 2021

Renaming

Let me start by wishing you all a healthy 2021.

The topic of my first blog in the new year is "renaming." Red Baron has written about the renaming of streets in Freiburg and Berlin in the past. This time two small towns carrying names that no longer seem acceptable are presented.

For safer traffic.
Please, don't drive too fast! (©Kurier/Österreich)
The first village, originally named Fucking, is located in the so-called Innviertel (Inn quarter), an area that belonged to Bavaria for centuries. In 1779 the territory became Austrian in the Treaty of Teschen. This is why Hitler, born in Braunau am Inn had Austrian citizenship. For more information, read the appendix.

Wikipedia knows: The village’s name was particularly popular with British tourists; as a local tour guide explained, "The Germans all want to see Mozart's house in Salzburg; the Americans want to see where The Sound of Music was filmed; the Japanese want Hitler's birthplace in Braunau; but for the British, it's all about Fucking." Augustina Lindlbauer, the manager of an area guesthouse, added, "The area has lakes, forests, and vistas worth visiting, but there is an obsession with Fucking." She once explained to a British tourist, "There are no Fucking postcards."

Place-name signs were frequently stolen. So in August 2005, all eight signs at the four entrances to the village were secured against theft by setting them in concrete, riveting, and welding them.

The settlement Fucking is believed to have been founded in the 6th century AD by Focko, a Bavarian nobleman. Initially, in 1070, the village's name was documented as Vucchingen, as Fukching in 1303, as Fugkhing in 1532, and got its modern spelling in the 18th century. The ending -ing is an old Germanic suffix meaning the people belonging to the place of Fuck, i.e., Fuck’s people.  In German, the vowel "u," in Fucking is pronounced sounding like in English "book." 

The name was frequently used in German with the English connotation. A brewery fermented a Fucking pale lager beer and sold it as Fucking Hell. An effort to make Fucking into a spa (bath) ended badly with Bad Fucking.

Men at work (©Reddit)
On November 17, 2020, the municipal council decided to rename the village to Fugging as of January 1, 2021.

(©Sauerland Kurier)
The other village still to be renamed (?) is an idyllic spot in the Sauerland region, close to the popular Biggesee, with hiking trails in the greenery. The place called Neger is located in the valley of the river Neger and is divided into Unterneger, Mittelneger, and Oberneger. The names are several centuries old. No one accuses the 400 inhabitants of racist tendencies. However, in the face of everyday racism and increasing linguistic sensitivity, the name of the village causes confusion.

Where does the name come from? It has been documented for 700 years. The disturbing word is formed from a stem "Nag-." About the origin and original meaning of Neger, nothing exact can be said except that there isn’t any derivation from the Latin word "niger," which means black, dark.

Other place names could be controversial, like Mohrkirch and Negernbötel in Schleswig-Holstein or Groß Mohrdorf in Mecklenburg-Pomerania. These places are small and little known. Although place names should be treated as proper names, some linguists claim that today's origin plays a less important role than its current meaning.

The place-name Neger existed when its racist, personal designation in German was not yet known. The present-day meaning, however, is unambiguous.

A proposition goes like this: If the name can be derived historically from "Nag-," then why not "Nager"?* Then one could possibly say at some point: "Welcome to the Nager Valley!"
*Nager in German are rodents


Appendix:

Hitler (right) and his Bavarian comrades in France (©SZ)
Hitler, having renounced his Austrian citizenship in 1925 after he had served during the First World War as private first class and Meldegänger (reporting officer) in the German army in a Bavarian infantry regiment, ended up as a stateless person living in Germany.

In 1932 he eventually was made a German in the Free State of Brunswick with the help of his right-wing friends being employed as a Regierungsrat (state council) at the Landeskultur- und Vermessungsamt (state cultural and surveying department). He was supposed on duty as a clerk at the Brunswick state representation in Berlin, an appointment he never held.

The new state servant was sworn in on February 26, 1932, receiving at the same time the "citizenship in the Free State of Braunschweig," which simultaneously made him a "citizen of the Reich" under state law.

The whole „fascinating" story of Hitler‘s strive for German citizenship is well documented.

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