Why 'Klimaterroristen' has been named Germany's ugliest word of the year

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 10 Jan, 2023 Updated Tue 10 Jan 2023 11:03 CEST
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A group of activists from the 'Last Generation" group blocks a street in Vienna during a climate action protest. (Copyright: Letzte Generation Österreich)

A jury has picked the word 'Klimaterroristen' - or "climate terrorists" - as the ugliest German word of the year.

The word has been popularised as a response to the attention-grabbing tactics of activist groups like Last Generation, who last year stepped up their campaigns by disrupting flights at airports and throwing mashed potato at a Monet painting.

But the jury for the 'Unwort' campaign in Marburg said the term Klimaterroristen - or "climate terrorists" - had been used to discredit activists and their demands for greater climate protection. 

They said the term ensures peaceful protesters are "equated with terrorists and thus criminalised and defamed".

This places non-violent forms of civil disobedience and democratic resistance in the context of violence and hostility to the state, the jury added. In addition, the term "shifts the focus of the debate from the group's justified substantive demands to how to deal with protesters". 

Alongside Klimaterroristen, several other words have become more commonly used in recent months as a way of defaming activists and their goals - with Ökoterrorismus (eco-terrorism) and Klima-RAF (climate RAF) among them.

Last year's word is also reminiscent of 2020's 'Unwort' of the year: Klimahysterie.

At the time, the word was widely used on the right to accuse the Friday’s for Future movement of exaggerating the threat posed by global warming.

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

'Unwort of the Year' 

The Unwort des Jahres - roughly translated as the non-word, or worst word, of the year - is reported on by major German news outlets each year when winners are announced. 

Since 1991, the jury - consisting of four linguists, a journalist, and a member who changes every year - has been selecting inhumane or inappropriate terms that violate the principle of human dignity, or that misleadingly gloss over or discriminate against something negative.

Critics of the campaign have slammed the award for making certain words taboo, while one CDU politician even compared the 'Unwort' neologism to the Nazi word 'Un-mensch' (non-person). 

Last year, the term "pushback" was chosen as the Unwort of the Year. Justifying its decision, the jury said term whitewashed the inhumane process of physically pushing back refugees at the borders.

In 2021, meanwhile, two terms were chosen as the worst of the year for the first time: Corona-dictator (corona dictatorship) and Rückführungspatenschaften (sponsored returns for migrants).

READ ALSO: 'Corona-dictator' named one of Germany's ugliest words of the year

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