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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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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 WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Kladderadatsch

Whether it’s a pile of clothes on the floor or even the downfall of a political system, this is a German word for all things messy and chaotic.

German word of the day: Kladderadatsch

The German language is full of wonderful words that don’t have a true English translation: a personal favourite is Verschlimmbessern, which means to try and improve a situation only to end up making it worse. Der Kladderadatsch is another word which defies simple translation, meaning something like “unholy mess” or “clutter”, but also “chaos”,  “collapse”, or “crash”.

The reason for this slightly strange combination of meanings is that Kladderadatsch is onomatopoeic: it describes the sound that disorganised things make. When the word is used to describe a crash, an English onomatopoeic equivalent would probably be “kerblam!” or something similar. When you’re explaining that your bedroom is a mess, however, you’re most likely instead hoping to convey the idea of clutter – not that your laundry is making a “kerblam” noise! 

In a political sense, Kladderadatsch can also mean a particularly messy scandal.

Although Kladderadatsch can most likely trace its origin back to early 19th century Berlin, the word only became particularly popular following the first publication of a satirical magazine called Kladderadatsch in 1848. This magazine, published weekly from 1848 until 1944, was born out of the radical student protests of the time, which many believed were the signs of the old political system collapsing. 

According to legend, the founders of the magazine – Albert Hofmann and David Kalisch – came up with the name after watching a dog jump up onto a tavern table, knocking over bottles and glasses alike. Watching the chaos before them, they recognised the parallels with their political times, and so Kladderadatsch was christened.

EXAMPLES:

Ich habe den ganzen Kladderadatsch in den Müll geschmissen.

I threw the whole mess into the rubbish

In unserer Stadt gab es deswegen einen großen Kladderadatsch

There was a big scandal in our town because of it

Seine Geschäfte endeten mit einem großen Kladderadatsch

His businesses ended in a big ‘crash!’

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