German word of the day: Heißzeit

Our German word of the day is also the German word of the year, a panel of language experts decided Friday. Find out why it's formed a heated discussion since August.

German word of the day: Heißzeit
Photo: DPA

The Society for the German Language (Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache or GfdS) made the announcement on Friday that Heißzeit is now the top word to have emerged in German over the past year.

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It’s not surprising, given that the word refers to both the unusually hot and dry summer that stretched on between April and October in Germany, but also climate change in general.

With the phonetic resemblance to ice age (Eiszeit), the expression takes on an epochal dimension beyond the mere meaning of “period in which it is hot”, and possibly refers to a changing climate period, according to the Wiesbaden jury in its reasoning.

Other terms used often in German to describe the the warmer weather around the globe are Erwärmung (global warming) or Klimaänderung (climate change).

During the long and intense German summer, farmers were plagued with drought, fires broke out with especially high intensity, and the water levels of the Rhine dropped (so much so that a World War II bomb was discovered there).

SEE ALSO: 'We need intense rainfall': Drought cripples crucial German waterways

The news in Germany has indeed been scarily similar to that in much of the rest of the world.

That explains why in August climate researchers spoke of the scary dangers of increasing temperatures – even if the Paris Climate Agreement was agreed to – in a special edition of “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

The German media then clung to the term Heißzeit, favouring it over the previous ways of describing climate change. Interestingly, the more moderately sounding Warmzeit is used in German to describe the interglacial period of warmer global temperatures lasting hundreds of years.

Heißzeit takes to term to the new extreme, and expresses that the higher temperatures could mean more than just the natural cycle following an Eiszeit.

Since 1977, the GfdS has selected a word annually in order to describe terms that have determined political, economic and social life in a special way.

Here are a few headlines in the German media which have used the term since August:

Erde rast auf Heißzeit zu – The earth races towards a hot period, from Deutschlandradiofunk on December 13th

Wissenschaftler warnen vor Heißzeit – Researchers warm of a hot period, from Tagesschau on August 6th

Was wäre schlimmer: Heißzeit oder Eiszeit? – What would be worse? A period of heat or ice? from (of Brandenburg) on August 18th

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Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.

This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.

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German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Get to know this colloquial phrase and use it with your German friends.

German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Why do I need to know auf dein Nacken?

This is the kind of phrase you’ll never find in a German textbook, but you might hear it in the wild so it’s good to learn it for informal situations. 

What does it mean?

The phrase auf dein Nacken! literally translates to on your neck and means something like ‘this is on you’ or ‘Your treat’ or ‘you pay’. You can also use it on yourself with mein/meinen Nacken which then means: ‘this is on me’, ‘my treat’ or ‘I got this’. 

You can use this expression in the context of paying for something, for example when the bill comes in a restaurant or if it’s your round at the pub you might hear this from friends. 

However, the phrase can also mean something like: ‘I’ll do it’ or ‘I’ll handle it’ so it doesn’t just have to apply to money situations. In this context, it’s more about when someone takes the lead on something. 

A group of friends clink beers in Leer, Lower Saxony.

The German expression “auf dein Nacken” is used among friends. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lars Klemmer

For the eagle-eyed among you, you’ll notice that the grammar of this phrase isn’t technically correct. It should be: auf deinEN Nacken. 

The imperfect grammar represents the origins of the phrase, which comes from young people speaking and chatting on social media or text.

However, sometimes when people use it to apply to themselves, they use the correct grammar: Auf meinen Nacken. But it can be shortened too. Basically, don’t worry too much about grammar rules on this one and just go with the flow!

The phrase has become more mainstream after it was a runner up in the German Youth Word of the Year 2018.  

READ ALSO: What are the meanings behind Germany’s youth words of the year?

Keep in mind that this expression is for use with your good friends, not with your German boss (unless you’re on very friendly terms).

Use it like this: 

– Hey, hast du Bock auf Binge-Watching Netflix mit Sushi?

Auf dein Nacken oder wie?

– Hey, are you up for binge-watching Netflix with sushi?”

– Your treat or what?

If you want to use the expression yourself, you can easily integrate it into an informal conversation over text. For instance, if you are taking on a bill or a task, write: Auf meinen Nacken and everyone will know that you are performing the action, paying for something or taking the lead.