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'Youth Word of the Year' shows 'problem' of trendy English

The Local · 6 Dec 2011, 10:00

Published: 06 Dec 2011 10:00 GMT+01:00

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The trendiest German word used by young people this year is “Swag”, defined as “enviable, casual-cool charisma” or a “charismatic, positive aura,” according to a jury of young people and journalists appointed by Langenscheidt.

It is the first time in four years of choosing the “Youth Word of the Year,” that the winner can be traced back to an English word – in this case the word swagger.

But Holger Klatte, a spokesman at the Verein Deutsche Sprache told The Local that after conducting his own independent research he was “very sceptical” that German young people would use the word at all.

In any event, he said, it was evidence that some in society were using English to the detriment of good German, even if it did not make sense to do so.

“The pick is a symptom of what’s happening in our society, that young people are seeing English as trendy,” he told The Local.

“It is a very big problem. But I don’t think this choice is very representative of how young people are talking anyway.”

The Verein Deutsche Sprache has been at the forefront of Germany’s growing movement to promote more robust use of the national language, although the organisation has no legal authority.

It has previously criticised major companies such as Deutsche Telekom for using too many English words for its products and services, despite German words and phrases being available.

Langenscheidt’s annual “Youth Word of the Year” is supposed to identify the trendiest and hippest term coined by German youth over the course of the year.

After an internet vote open to the public, the jury makes its final selections based on originality and creativity, among other factors. Previous winners have included “hartzen” (to be unemployed – derived from Hartz IV jobless benefits) and “Gammelfleischparty” (a party for people over 30).

Moises Mendoza



This year's top five picks for "Youth Word of the Year"

1. Swag (enviable, casual-cool charisma or a charismatic, positive aura)

Story continues below…

2. Fail/Epic Fail (A big mistake or failure)

3. Guttenbergen (to plagiarize or crib – derived from disgraced former Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg who resigned after it emerged he had copied large parts of his doctoral thesis)

4. Körperklaus (clumsy)

5. Googeln (to search or look up something)

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:37 December 6, 2011 by Shiny Flu
Swag: Refers (traditionally) to stolen goods but also refers to promotional giveaways.

English may be 'trendy' but it doesn't mean it'll be used correctly.
11:08 December 6, 2011 by Navigator_B
Googeln is one of the youth words of the year 2011? That's, like, soooo 2004 (that's when it was added to the Duden dictionary).
12:26 December 6, 2011 by Simon_Kellett
Although I am over 30 "Gammelfleischparty" amused me: "rotting meat party". But I also like "Guttenbergen" !

Shiney Flu: I assume "Swag" is a corruption of "swagger", and, IMHO, it is more original to take a foreign word, alter it and then add it to your own language !! Or invent a word like "handy" !!
12:31 December 6, 2011 by Navigator_B
How can a word like Googeln be cool when it's used by people who go to Gammelfleischparties?
16:51 December 6, 2011 by finanzdoktor
You can be quite the swag if you guttenbergen some research, especially items found by googleln. But don't be a korperklaus at a gammelfleischparty and tell someone about it, or you will be face an epic fail.
19:13 December 6, 2011 by JAMessersmith
"Swag" may be an English word, but when you pronounce it as "Svag", it sounds German.
09:24 December 7, 2011 by septiSeverus
If the popular new products and services used world over, were invented and developed in German speaking countries, by German speaking people

I could somewhat understand the criticism and fear of damage to German language identity?
14:27 December 7, 2011 by trevzns
It was evidence that some in society were using English to the detriment of good German.

How is using English words damage to German language? English is a family member of West Germanic languages.

English is a word borrowing language, assimilating words from other languages around the world.

German language uses many French and Latin words etc.

To the language puritans and old-timers out there, look at the influence of English words as a language return gift (Geschenk).

Und, nehmen Sie eine Chill Pille (And, take a chill pill), das ist Einen positiven Fortschritt machen. (Its positive progress.)
22:55 December 7, 2011 by MaKo
Don't blame the youth. Blame the crappy Schlecker ads.
18:53 December 9, 2011 by rmsbl4
Some of this is begining to sound like Quebec in Canada. Even though Canada has two offical languages English & French, you won't find anything in English in their little own Kingdom. They try changing internation company names because they are too Anglo.
17:58 December 10, 2011 by karldehm
No one should be afraid to use English words when speaking German. But the problem is that most of the words from English used in German, have a completely different meaning in German. And most are fad words which most English nor German people know what they mean. Take for example, meeting point, tuning and handy.

In German there are very specific spelling and pronunciation rules, whereas in English there are patterns. I hesitate to call them rules because spelling and pronunciation in English is a mess, which I hate to wish on any other nationality.

As for the Canadian's comment about Quebec, how would you feel if you were a French speaking Canadian and you were ruled by the English for hundreds of years and forced to speak English to get ahead. I definitely would have a little resentment.
06:29 December 11, 2011 by Melbourne1
I'm sorry to see English (my native language) dominating international communications and being absorbed by so many other languages. I sympathise with those who try to prevent its unchecked growth.

As for 'swag', German speakers might be interested to know, the Oxford English Dictionary is uncertain of its origins, but does say that it is probably Scandinavian, from the Norwegian dialect words 'svagga' and 'svaga', meaning to sway. Like most English words beginning with 'sw', it probably has a Germanic root.

I was in France when an effort was made to stop the use of the English word 'budget'. Things settled down when it turned out to be a corruption of the French word 'bouger'.
19:06 December 14, 2011 by MikeJarosz
English dominates so much of the world because the British had the largest colonial empire. Second was Spain. The world has plenty of Nuevo Españas.

France was up there until Napoleon sold off Louisiana to the USA.

But Germany had a few colonies too. There are still pockets of Südwest Afrika using German (and medieval Dutch).

A Hungarian I knew once complained that only 4 million speak his language because it never had any colonies. It's largely useless in World Commerce.
22:05 December 14, 2011 by Kennneth Ingle
German, English, Welsh, the EU does not need any national languages, but something everybody can understand and use. Suahili might be a good alternative, it is easy to learn and is already used in many African countries where otherwise hundreds of local dialects would have to be learnt.
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