Tag Archives: German language

The angry new word of the year: Wutbürger

The German language has a body which oversees the development of it’s language. The German Language Society tracks down and documents new words which enter the German language. Not only that, every year they select a winner.

Of course German is very prone to adopting new words. Not only are there the very many Denglish imports, but German is the sort of language which automatically creates new words all the time, by sticking ever more components together until you have created the concept you want to convey. Such as Flauschhandtuchbenutzer or Zehenzwischenraumabtrockner.

To be a winning word in the eyes of the German Language Society though, you have to be a word of the times. You have to reflect the mood of the particular period in which you were developed and adopted by the media.

This year’s word is Wutbürger. It means enraged citizen. In a year where people across Germany – and indeed much of Europe – have taken to the streets in protest at a variety of issues – the Wutbürger is the New German of 2010.

Of course you have to wonder what previous protesting Burgers were referred to as. What about 1968 when there were riots on the streets across many German cities and the police fired back with water cannon? Well apparently that was more of a Jugendrevolte.  That’s  “youth revolting”  or “revolting youth”  depending on which side of thirty you happened to be at the time.

But what will happen when the English language decides to assimilate this new German favourite?

To the English ear, the Wutbürger sounds more like another variant of a Hamburger or Beefburger. Perhaps one which will contain more chilli sauce and mustard than usual – or even a few Jalapeno Peppers, just to express its outrage and desire for revenge. It might also have the properties of a dodgy kebab – the sort of food which you wolf down when hungry, but which reappears with alarming speed. It almost certainly wouldn’t contain salad.

The Wutbürger could even end up as the weapon of choice at food fights between today’s revolting youth and the powers of law and order. It would be a massive hit with the media, due to the presence of much red chilli sauce (indistinguishable from blood) which will make for dramatic front page photos.  I can just see it: “Prince Charles struck by a Wutbürger on his way to the theatre – one dinner shirt badly injured.”

Bite me if you dare... GRRRRRR

Wutbürger and chips anyone?

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Some advertising…

…. just doesn’t work on the Brits.

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Learning to speak German like a proper Ausländer

I’ve finally realised the problem with my German.  I’ve been spending far too much time focussing on making it sound…well….German. I guess what I need to do is take some proper lessons.

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Learn to speak like a Neo Nazi

However long I live in Germany, it seems that people spot me for a foreigner the moment I open my mouth.

The problem is that I speak a fairly accent-neutral grammatically correct German. Stop sniggering at the back there! This of course, is a dead give away. Real Germans just don’t talk like this.

The trick is to find something other than Hochdeutsch to have as your accent.

This blog already suggested that famous dialect: Imbißdeutsch as a way of passing off as a local.

To complement this, I’d like to suggest another form of German which will allow us to blend in – this time with a group which we really wouldn’t want to spot us as being foreign. The neo nazis.

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An Englishwoman’s difficulties with the German language

Of course when I first came to Germany, I assumed I’d pick up the language fairly fluently within a week or two. The best way to do this would be to immerse myself totally. I resolved to seek out people who don’t know any English and insist on talking with them. In German, of course.

My first victim was the landlady of the small guest house which I booked myself into the morning of my arrival. She fitted the bill perfectly, as she spoke fluent fast German, and shook her head vigorously when I asked if she knew English. I’d been travelling all night, so when she presented me with coffee and a small biscuit, I thought I’d try learning the language through acquiring the vocabulary for ordering breakfast.

Initially of course I had to fall back on hand signals. So I pointed gracefully and slightly coyly to my mouth to hint that I was hungry.

The landlady set off in her eloquent high-speed German and somewhere towards the end of the torrent was something about “Stukken.”

I realised at once that there must be some problem in the kitchen. I only wanted a spot of breakfast… but clearly there was a technical hitch of some sort. I wondered if it was a slice of bread that had got stukken in the toaster. Or maybe the knob on the cooker was stukken, and there was no chance of a boiled egg.

I shook my head sympathetically. I’m no good with appliances myself either.

She then set off with another babble of German, which appeared to be discussing the “spec” of the faulty device in question – almost certainly a toaster – they are so unreliable! She stressed the word “ire” several times, and even “raw ire” so she was clearly quite disgusted about the device’s inability to make my breakfast. In fact she ended up with her face right up close to mine, barking “spec und ire” loudly.
I know exactly how she felt.

Still, this conversation about culinary equipment and its failings wasn’t getting me any closer to a plate of bacon and eggs. So I shook my head vigorously to show that although I sympathised, the conversation was completely off track.

Toasters are the worst!”I stressed, in case she thought me rude.

The sympathetic approach seemed to do the trick, because almost immediately, she disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a plate of toast and sausage.

I must buy a phrasebook.

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