“Words and expressions that have defined public conversation, stand for important themes or seem characteristic were chosen,” the GfdS said in a statement, adding that its vote for the top ten words of the year are meant to serve as a “linguistic chronicle.” The society has chosen a word each year since 1971.
The global financial crisis had the most influence on this year’s top words, with verzockt, or “squandered,” coming in second place, and Rettungsschirm, or “bailout,” taking eighth place.
The GfdS board voted on some 4,000 words and phrases to come up with their list that spans the year’s biggest news stories.
Third place went to Datenklau, or “data theft,” a fear many Germans probably have after word got out that millions of telephone customers’ personal information was available for sale after a leak at Deutsche Telekom.
Fourth place went to hessische Verhältnisse, or “Hessian circumstances,” in reference to the German state’s political limbo since January’s election when neither the ruling conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) nor the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) could cobble together a majority. The state dissolved its parliament in November to make way for new elections after a spectacular rebellion among embattled Social Democrats kept them from forming a coalition with the hard-line socialist Left party.
Umweltzone, or “environmental zone,” took fifth place as a new development in many city centres, where new rules dictate that only cars with certain low emissions certification are allowed to drive.
The expression multipolare Welt, or “multipolar world,” rang in at sixth place as a word that dominated discussion of globalisation and the balance of world powers.
Seventh place was filled by Nacktscanner, or “naked scanner,” in reference to controversial backscatter scanners that create a ghostly naked image of a person and are being discussed as a possible addition to German and EU airport security.
The aforementioned Rettungsschirm, or “bailout,” took eighth place, followed by Bildungsfrühling or “educational spring,” which refers to the hope that new government initiatives will help to improve educational programmes.
An American phrase from the US election race, which was followed closely by Germans, took the final place on the list. President-elect Barack Obama’s catch campaign phrase “Yes, we can!” has been adopted by the Germans, who have also added their own spin.
When Cem Özdemir became the first person of Turkish descent to head a major German political party after being elected as co-leader of the environmentalist Greens in November, many media sources used the phrase “Yes, we Cem!”
4. hessische Verhältnisse
6. multipolare Welt
10. Yes, we can!