German word of the day: Das Gendersternchen

Our odd word of the day, which literally translates to "little gender star", has been officially named the Anglicism of the Year 2018 in Germany for its linguistic and sociological significance.

German word of the day: Das Gendersternchen

When this little star is inserted into words it makes it possible to address all genders at the same time in written German. An example: Renters in the normally male plural of Mieter can become the female plural of Mieter*innen.

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On Tuesday, the so-called Anglicism Jury at Free University Berlin made their selection based on the increasingly widespread use of this asterisk “in public language,” they said.

They were also swayed by the central importance that the sign – and the word for it – have had in the debate “on the difficult and highly controversial issue of linguistic equality of different sexes,” said Anatol Stefanowitsch, chairman of the jury, on Tuesday in Berlin.

The Free University linguist is a proponent of gender-equitable language and welcomes the Gendersternchen in order to make gender visible beyond men and women when naming groups of people.

But it’s not only in liberal Berlin that you’re likely to spot the star when reading texts – be it a newspaper asking addressing its readers (liberal daily taz uses Leser*innen) or a landlord addressing tenants (for example, Mieter*innen).

Recently a lot of attention has been cast on Hanover because it has introduced a new “Recommendation for a Gender Equitable Administrative Language” urging institutions to also adapt gender neutral ways of representing word.

In 2018, there was also a discussion among the Council for German Spelling about a possible inclusion of the Gendersternchen in official bureaucratic spelling.

The Anglicism jury didn’t just praise the word for the concept of gender equality it represents. Being linguists, they were also, well, star struck that the word Gendersternchen shows how quickly German can use words or phrases borrowed from English to form new words – words that aren’t quite English nor German.

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This texts contains two examples of the Gendersternchen, Einwohner*innen and Mitarbeiter*innen. Photo: DPA

Within just a few years, the so-called “Gender Star” had become a Gendersternchen. Ladies and gentlemen, we present you with the newest Denglisch term.

Since the turn of the millennium in Germany, the verb “gendern” has found itself in its technical meaning: “Realizing equality between men and women”. But thanks to the gender star it also can have the English meaning of gender, or Geschlecht in German.

With reporting by DPA

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This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.



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German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.