If you’ve looked at the facts and decided you may have been wrong about something, you might be inclined to tell people you’ve had a “Meinungsumschwung”.
The closest literal translation to Meinungsumschwung (pronounced Mei·nungs·um·schwung) in English might be something like a change of opinion, though “change of heart” is an idiom that also fits quite well.
This useful word is yet another one of Germany’s famous compound nouns – meaning it combines two nouns or more nouns to create another one.
Thankfully, in comparison with a horror show like Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (a letter you need from your landlord when moving home), Meinungsumschwung is relatively easy to wrap your head around and is only comprised of two separate nouns.
The first one is Meinung (pronounced mai – nung), which means opinion or view, and the second is Umschwung (pronounced um – schwung), which online dictionary DWDS describes as “drastic change, turn, change into the opposite”, but could also be translated as “reversal” or “turnaround”.
Once again, breaking down the components of the word is helpful here: um means “around” and schwingen means “to swing” (Schwung is the noun form), so you can literally envision someone doing a rapid 180-degree turn and ending up with a completely different opinion than the one they started with.
As you might expect, der Meinungsumschwung can often be a surprising and sudden thing. It can be a rapid response to major historical or political events, which often prompt people to change their minds at short notice.
In one recent example, the word was used by Tagesschau to describe the sudden change in Finland’s attitudes to joining NATO in the weeks after the conflict broke out.
Following Russia’s aggression against its neighbour, a “deutlicher Meinungsumschwung” (clear change of opinion) in the the population became apparent in the latest polls, Tagesschau wrote.
The Nordic country has gone from being broadly against NATO membership to being overwhelmingly in favour – and all within a matter of weeks.
Unsurprisingly, the term has also been used by numerous op-ed writers in recent months to describe the flip-flopping of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) as he argued against sending weapons to Ukraine, and then sent them. And then argued against an oil embargo, and then agreed to it. And then argued against sending heavy weapons, and then agreed to send them.
The fact that these “Meinungsumschwungen” continue to happen on a regular basis is one of the most fervent criticisms of the new government.
Less than a week after war broke out in eastern Europe, Scholz organised a special parliamentary session in which he declared that there had been a “Zeitenwende” (a historical turning point, or, more literally, a change of the times).
More recently, it looks like the defining motto at the moment is not necessary a change in times, but rather several changes of opinion.
It’s probably lucky that the German language has an equally good word for that.
Wie sollen sie nun ihren Meinungsumschwung vor der Öffentlichkeit begründen?
How are they now going to justify their change of opinion to the public?
Was steckt hinter diesem Meinungsumschwung?
What’s behind this change of opinion?