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.”
Wutbürger and chips anyone?