German word of the day: Unkaputtbar

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 16 Apr, 2019 Updated Tue 16 Apr 2019 17:16 CEST
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Today’s word of the day - unbreakable - has ironically broken the rules of German grammar in order to exist.

Unkaputtbar is a so-called Verballhornung, which is also a very fun word.  It essentially means malapropism, or to take an old notion and give it a new meaning by changing it up in a grammatically incorrect way.

But back to unkaputtbar. It basically means “unbreakable” or "indestuctible" and is a very new addition to the German language.

Its origin story is quite an unusual one: In the early 1990s, Coca Cola created it for an ad. Back then; they started to sell their beverage in new plastic bottles. These plastic bottles don’t break when they fall, in contrast to glass bottles. Hence, the new plastic bottles were unkaputtbar.

But why is this word a Verballhornung? To answer that, we have to separate the word. It exists of three parts: un-kaputt-bar. Un is the prefix and means “not,” kaputt is an adjective and means “broken,” and bar is a suffix, which means “to be able to.”

Now the rule in the German language is that an adjective shouldn’t be combined with the suffix –bar, as it is connected to a verb instead. Examples for this are lieferbar (available), machbar (possible), löschbar (erasable).

As for this rule, the correct way of saying unkaputtbar would be unkaputtmachbar. Kaputt machen means “to break something,” and therefore transforms the adjective kaputt into a verb.

The use of the grammatically wrong word unkaputtbar was intentional, though. The explanation for this is easy: The readers and viewers of an ad notice the falsification – hence it is remembered. And what else would a company want than an easily memorable ad?

Its everyday use trickled further into German pop culture. In a 2010 rap song "Unkaputtbar", two men boast "Du bist unkaputtbar, ich bin unkaputtbar" amid bottles which are kaputt

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The Local 2019/04/16 17:16

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