‘Corona-dictator’ named one of Germany’s ugliest words of the year

'Corona-dictator' named one of Germany's ugliest words of the year
Photo: DPA
Every year in January a jury of linguists picks the Un-word of the year. This year they had a surprise in store - they picked two.

The five person jury behind the Unwort des Jahres announced on Monday that “Corona-Diktatur” und “Rückführungspatenschaften” have been chosen as the un-words of 2020.

Corona-dictator is a slogan that has been used by participants at the anti-lockdown demonstrations, the more radical members of which accuse Angela Merkel of using the pandemic to set up a dictatorship.

Rückführungspatenschaften (repatriation sponsorships) is a term coined by the European Commission to refer to when one member state takes over the responsibility of deporting someone whose asylum application has been rejected by another state. The jury said that the use of the word sponsorship attempted to put a positive spin on the practise of deportation.

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The jury say that they picked the words to highlight how language can be used to denigrate democracy or human rights. Suggestions are sent in by the general public and winners are then selected by the jury.

This year 625 different words were suggested.

In 2020 the Unwort of the year was Klimahysterie (climate hysteria), a word used on the right to accuse the Friday’s for Future movement of exaggerating the threat posed by global warming.

The Unwort des Jahres is reported on by all the major German media outlets including the main Tagesschau evening news slot. Conservative critics accuse it of an illiberal tendency of attempting to make certain words unsayable.

Writing in die Welt, CDU politician Christina Schröder said that “Unwort” itself is a problematic use of language as it mirrors the Nazi word Un-Mensch.

Schröder said that the jury, who are not associated with the national association of linguists, failed to pick up on left-wing slogans like Umwelsau (environmental pig) or Alte weiße Männer (old white men) and encouraged media organisations to stop reporting on the event.


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