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'Gate' named Germany's English word of the year

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Handygate, the alleged tapping of Chancellor Merkel's phone by US secret services helped propel "gate" to victory. Photo: DPA
09:30 CET+01:00
The English suffix "gate" has been named Germany's Anglicism of the Year. The quirky, linguistic award honours the positive contributions English had made to the German lexicon.

Gate is no newbie on German turf, having arrived in 1972 with the reporting of the Watergate scandal.

But Germans were slow to take it into their own language and it wasn't until many years later that gate gained widespread acceptance as a bona fide suffix.  

In 2010, former president Christian Wulff was criticized for rejecting Berlin-made bread rolls - known colloquially as Schrippen - in favour of those originating in his home town of Hannover.

The resulting controversy was dubbed Schrippengate.

More recently, revelations that US intelligence agencies had been bugging Chancellor Merkel's phone were referred to as Handygate, a combination of the victorious suffix with another word borrowed from English, handy, which means mobile phone in Germany.

As well as gate, the jury of four academics paid tribute to the English words fake, selfie and hashtag, which have recently crept into the German, or at least the Denglisch-speaking, domain.

They pointed out that fake used in German has embraced a more abstract meaning, as for example in the term Fake-Preußentum, meaning literally fake Prussianism.

Further evidence of how embedded fake has become in the German language is in the emergence of the term Fake-Leberwurst, referring to a sub-standard and inauthentic liver sausage.

Selfie, having won the prestigious title of 2013 Word of the Year in both Britain and the Netherlands, was also acknowledged for finally providing Germans with a term to describe amateur photographers with a penchant for self-display.

Hashtag was also lauded for offering a useful summation of online movements and activism.

The jury pointed to the success of the #Aufschrei movement on Twitter, which documents incidents of everyday sexism. 

Hashtag was also honoured for its introduction into spoken language "to add (ironical) meta comments to statements".

Although the jury chose gate as Anglicism of the Year, the popular vote went to the word whistleblower.

Following the leaking of information about government spying by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the term rapidly became associated with debates about data protection and government spying.

The "Anglizismus des Jahres" is an annual prize dedicated to the English word which most enriched the German language that year. Previous winners include Crowdfunding, leaken and shitstorm.

"I started the Anglicism of the Year to shine a positive light onto our borrowed words as a mirror of social change in the face of the cultural conservatism which usually accompanies the discussion," said jury chairperson Anatol Stefanowitsch, who teaches English linguistics at Berlin's Free University. 

READ MORE: 'Denglisch is for losers, it has to stop'

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