Every year since 2008, young people in Germany have been asked to vote for their favourite word or expression.
The Langenscheidt publishing agency founded the competition to showcase teenagers’ creative relationship with everyday language, but since 2019 the competition has been run by the Pons publishing house.
This year, ‘lost’ triumphed over the other finalists ‘cringe’ and ‘wyld/wild’ with 48 percent of the votes to win the title, a spokeswoman for Pons announced on Thursday.
The word translates literally into German as verloren, but it is used to describe being unsure or unable to understand something.
Young people were asked to send in their ideas online, and a list of the ten most popular suggestions was compiled by a jury before the winner was decided. Over a million votes have been cast since the competition started in June.
Previous winners include the newly coined word ‘Smombie’ – a hybrid of ‘smartphone’ and ‘zombie’, and phrases such as läuft bei dir (often meaning ‘you have what it takes’ or ‘you’re doing something right’).
Ehrenmann/Ehrenfrau, words used to describe someone who does something nice for someone else, were the winners in 2018.
English comes out on top
‘Lost’ is a quick and easy way to say that you or someone else is clueless or doesn’t know what to do.
“I’ve heard ‘lost’ a lot in day to day conversations”, said Artemis Alexiadou, a philologist at Humboldt University in Berlin.
“I’ve been using it more often recently when I don’t understand something, especially because so much is confusing and unexpected at the moment.”
Another word that made it to the final, ‘cringe’, came in second place with 28 percent of the vote and is used to describe something awkward or embarrassing. It can also be used to express a sense of second hand embarrassment.
‘Wyld’ or ‘wild’, which came in third place, is used by young people to describe something amazing or extraordinary.
The influence of social media
All three finalists this year, and many of the winners from previous competitions, have come from the English language.
“Young people often add distinctive words or phrases to their spoken language to distance themselves from the older generation. In that respect it makes sense to use English”, explains Alexiadou.
Young people often spend a lot of time on social media, where the main language is English. “These words are seen as trendy and in fashion”, added Alexiadou.
Translated by Eve Bennett.