Why is this phrase Germany’s ‘Anglicism of the Year’?

This year’s Anglicism of the Year recalls the importance of climate protection movements around the world.

Why is this phrase Germany's 'Anglicism of the Year'?
Photo: DPA

Since 2010, a jury composed of various linguistic institutions and universities has chosen an Anglicism of the Year to recognize the positive influence of the English language in Germany.

This year they deemed “for future” as the winning Anglicism, stating they were impressed by the phrase’s creative dissemination.

“For future” is a so-called phrase template—a phrase with a space in which different words can be inserted. 

An “Omas for Future” demonstration earlier in January in Mainz. Photo: DPA.

Throughout 2019, there were demonstrations under the title Fridays for Future, Students for Future, and even Omas for Future.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about the climate strikes in Germany

The jury announced Tuesday morning in Berlin that they were furthermore impressed by the term’s central importance for the climate protection movement. 

The phrase can be traced back to the catchphrase Fridays for Future, a term coined by 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in 2018.

English belongs 'to all of us'

Jury chairman Anatol Stefanowitsch noted: “That a Swedish native speaker coined an English slogan that was then adopted worldwide and used as a model for the naming of climate protection movements, until finally becoming a general expression for climate-conscious action in German, shows that the English language no longer belongs to the traditional English-speaking countries, but to all of us.”

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks in front of the Brandenburg Gate at a 2019 Fridays for Future demonstration in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The message that English belongs to ‘all of us,’ is a significant part of the mission of the Anglicism of the Year award.

In fact, the initiative has been focusing on “the positive contribution of English to the development of German vocabulary” every year since 2010, making “for future” the 10th Anglicism chosen.

Last year, the distinguished terms included the gender star (the symbol *) as well as terms such as “Influencer” (2017) and “Shitstorm” (2011).

READ ALSO: Shitstorm 'best English gift to German language'

There is also a popular vote portion of the decision in the form of a multi-day online vote.

The phrase “OK Boomer,” used by younger people to sarcastically dismiss know-it-all statements made by members of the baby boomer generation, was chosen as the favourite this year.

More words and un-words of the year

The German language is known for its ability to combine words to form entirely new concepts and express complex ideas.

Along these lines, a  'German Word of the Year' is chosen annually by the Society for the German Language (DfdS), and captures a key political, social, or economic theme from the year.

This year the Wiesbaden-based group chose “Respektrente,” which refers to pensioners being able to enjoy their retirement with dignity after many years of work.

READ ALSO: This is the German word of the year for 2019

There is also an Unwort of the year, chosen by a language-critical jury in Darmstadt. This year’s winner was “Klimahysterie,” or climate hysteria.

Within German-speaking Europe, a group of experts from the University of Applied Sciences in Zürich named “Klimajugend,” or “climate youth” the Word of the Year in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: What is Germany's 'ugliest word of the year'?

Austria’s Word of the Year, determined by the Graz Research Center for Austrian German, brought images of political controversy to mind.

The chosen word “Ibiza” refers to the resignation of Vice Chancellor and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache following his reaction to a video in which he was secretly filmed on the Spanish island.

Translated by Kate Brady. 

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UPDATE: Greta Thunberg joins German climate strikes before vote ‘of a century’

Tens of thousands of climate activists including Greta Thunberg descended on German cities Friday ahead of the weekend general election to crank up the pressure on the candidates to succeed Angela Merkel.

UPDATE: Greta Thunberg joins German climate strikes before vote 'of a century'
Greta Thunberg and other climate activists in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Speaking at a rally in front of the Reichstag parliament building in the run-up to Sunday’s poll, Thunberg told cheering Fridays for Future youth supporters that they needed to hold Germany’s political leaders to account past election day.

“It is clearer than ever that no political party is doing close to enough… not even their proposed commitments are close to being in line with what would be needed to fulfil the Paris Agreement,” on curbing climate change, she said.

“Yes, we must vote, you must vote, but remember that voting only will not be enough. We must keep going into the streets.”

As Germany’s top parties hold final rallies ahead of Sunday’s vote, the Fridays for Future youth marches claim the political class has let down the younger generation.

“The political parties haven’t taken the climate catastrophe seriously enough,” Luisa Neubauer, who runs the group’s German chapter, said.

She said Germany, as one of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, had an outsize responsibility to set an example, with time running out to reverse destructive trends.

“That is why we are calling this the election of a century,” she said.

The race has boiled down to a two-way contest between Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, the moderate finance minister, and Armin Laschet from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.

Polls give Scholz a small lead of about 26 percent over Laschet at around 22 percent, with the candidate from the ecologist Greens, Annalena Baerbock, trailing in the mid-teens.

Despite the urgency of the climate issue for a majority of Germans, particularly in the aftermath of deadly floods in the west of the country in July, this has failed to translate into strong support for the relatively inexperienced Baerbock.

She told Die Welt newspaper that she hoped Friday’s rally would give her party “tailwinds” heading into the vote. “The next government has to be a climate government – that will only work with a strong Green party.”   

More than 400 “climate strikes” are planned across Germany, with the Swedish Thunberg, who inspired the movement, expected to speak outside the Reichstag parliament building.

Thousands gathered on the lawn there from late morning bearing signs reading “Climate now, homework later”, “It’s our future” and simply “Vote”.

“Climate is an important issue and if this continues things are going to get worse and worse,” 14-year-old pupil Louise Herr told AFP.

Gathering under the banners “We are young and need the world!” and “Everything for the climate”, the activists are arguing that “climate crisis is this century’s biggest problem”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

 ‘Unfair burden’

The activists will be part of a global climate strike in more than 1,000 communities around the world, Fridays for Future said.

Their central demand is to limit the warming of the Earth to maximum 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) as laid out in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The Paris agreement set a goal of reducing global warming by two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels with an aspiration to go further and cap the rise to 1.5 Celsius.

Despite Merkel’s vocal support of climate protection measures, Germany has repeatedly failed in recent years to meet its emission reduction targets under the pact.

In a landmark ruling in April, Germany’s constitutional court found the government’s plans to curb CO2 emissions “insufficient” to meet the targets of the Paris agreement and placed an “unfair burden” on future generations.

The Fridays for Future movement launched global school strikes more than two years ago arguing that time was running out to stop irreversible damage from the warming of the planet.

Demonstrators take to the streets in Berlin to call for urgent climate action. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Luca Bruno

In September 2019, it drew huge crowds in cities and towns around the world including 1.4 million protesters in Germany, according to organisers.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on its weekly rallies but the election campaign in Europe’s top economy has revitalised the

“The climate crisis cannot be solved through party politics alone,” Thunberg told reporters ahead of her appearance in Berlin.

“We can’t just vote for change, we also have to be active democratic citizens and go out on the streets and demand action.”


Greens as junior partner?

Around 60.4 million Germans are called to the polls on Sunday and most voters cite climate protection among their top priorities.

All three leading parties have said they aim to implement a climate protection agenda if elected, with the Greens presenting the most ambitious package of measures.

However the Fridays for Future activists have said even the Greens’ official programme falls short of what is needed to stick to the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise.

The Greens want to end coal energy use by 2030 instead of the current 2038. They also want the production of combustion engine cars to end from the same year.

While the party is expected to fall far short of its ambition to win the election Sunday and place Baerbock in the chancellery, polls indicate it has a good chance of joining a ruling coalition as a junior partner under Scholz or Laschet.

By Deborah Cole