You’ve probably heard of compound words – one long word made of multiple smaller ones. (They’re hard to miss while learning German!) But the pandemic has given rise to a whole host of new and often deeply satirical compounds.
‘Die Spuckschutztrennscheibe’ is a perfect example of this. Made up of four different words: ‘Spucke’ (spit), ‘Schutz’ (protection), ‘trennen’ (separating), ‘Scheibe’ (screen), this enormous compound is used to circumscribe the plexiglass screens we’ve gotten used to seeing everywhere since the last lockdown.
It’s a wonderful example of the German directness and name-it-as-you-see-it attitude. The plexiglass sheets are there to stop droplet transmission through sneezing, coughing, or spittle. It’s clear which of those captured the German consciousness most vividly, and so we have it: a spit shield.
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Covid has been an almost bottomless well of inspiration for the German language in the last year. In December, NDR reported an additional 1,000 new words and word compounds directly related to the pandemic, and with the ever-developing situation, it’s unlikely to stop there.
From Klopapierhysterie (toilet paper hysteria, a.k.a. panic buying), to Nacktnase (naked nose, someone who wears their mask incorrectly), there’s often a healthy dose of humour and silliness to this new vocab.
It’s something that says a lot about the coping mechanisms of the German cultural psyche: “Humor ist, wenn man trotzdem lacht” (humour is, when you laugh despite it all.)
Die Bäckerei hat jetzt auch eine Spuckschutztrennscheibe.
The bakery has a protection screen now too.
Deine Spuckschutztrennscheibe ist ziemlich verschmutzt.
Your protection screen is smudged up.
Ich habe dich nicht gesehen, die Spuckschutztrennscheibe ist beschlagen.
I didn’t see you, the protective screen is fogged up.