'Abwrackprämie' named word of the year
The Society for German Language (GfdS) on Friday crowned Abwrackprämie, or “wrecking premium,” the most important German word of 2009.
The word was coined to describe the country’s popular cash-for-clunkers scheme, which paid people to junk their old cars as part of the government's stimulus programme. The word was chosen to represent the “linguistic chronicle of the past year,” the organisation said from its headquarters in Wiesbaden.
The second place phrase was kriegsähnliche Zustände, or “war-like conditions,” used to describe the situation faced by German troops in Afghanistan – and also an indication of the enduring taboo of referring to Bundeswehr mission there as “war.”
Meanwhile Schweinegrippe, or “swine flu” came in third place for the year’s most popular word.
This year's winning word was made popular by average Germans and advertisers, GfdS head Rudolf Hoberg said, adding that the concept was carried over from cars to furniture, washing machines and bicycles.
“One breaks something and gets money for it,” he said, explaining the word’s appeal. The original Abwrackprämie offered Germans €2,500 to scrap their old cars and buy new, more environmentally friendly models.
Hoberg criticised the second place word, though, saying it trivialised reality.
“Of course we’re in a war there,” he said, referring to Afghanistan.
Other words on the list are very recent editions to the German vocabulary. The fifth place Weltklimagipfel, or “world climate conference,” threatened to collapse on Friday as the word list was released, while the Bundestag approved the ninth place word Wachstumsbeschleunigungsgesetz, or “growth acceleration law” on Friday too.
Each year the GfdS selects words and phrases made popular by the German media and public discussion, voting for the term that best embodies the zeitgeist. This year they chose among some 350 entries.
Hoberg said he was particularly amused by the creative solecism in the phrase Deutschland ist Europameisterin, or “Germany is the [feminine] European Champion,” used to describe the women’s national football team victory in the European championships.
Haste mal 'ne Milliarde?, or "Can you spare a billion," was an ironic take on how the financial crisis has changed how Germans think of money.
“In the last year we’ve started thinking in billions,” he said. “Millions are peanuts today.”
Last year's word was Finanzkrise, or financial crisis.
1. Abwrackprämie – "wrecking premium"
2. kriegsähnliche Zustände – "war-like conditions"
3. Schweinegrippe - "swine flu"
4. Bad Bank
5. Weltklimagipfel - "world climate conference"
6. Deutschland ist Europameisterin - "Germany is the [feminine] European Champion"
7. twittern – "to twitter"
8. Studium Bolognese – "Bolognese studies," a sarcastic reference to the Italian dish that reflects German universities' failure to properly integrate the Bologna education reforms
9. Wachstumsbeschleunigungsgesetz – "growth acceleration law"
10. Haste mal ’ne Milliarde? – "Can you spare a billion?"