“dürfen goes to Aschram”
and welcome back to the epic calendar, day 14. And today, it’s time for a new episode of You Heard it Here First.
In this series, we talk about new trends in the German language that textbooks and courses and even the Youtube teachers haven’t picked up on yet.
Now you now might be like “Wait, I don’t remember reading anything like that here. Is this the first ever episode?”
And it’s true… it’s not really a series yet. But there’s at least one article that fits right in and that’s about the absolutely insane and still increasig new use of halt (I’ll leave a link below).
And today, I want to tell you about a REALLY new and trending use of a very familiar verb that has a non-zero chance to actually hit mainstream.
I’m talking about:
A new use of “dürfen”
Or maybe we should say “A new age use of dürfen” because that’s kind of what it is.
So let’s take a look.
The “normal” core meaning of dürfen, that most of you probably know, is about having permission.
- In dieser Bar darf man rauchen.
- In this bar, you can/are allowed to smoke.
The translation is often can but the point really is that you have permission to smoke.
And now let’s look at an example for the new usage.
Imagine you’re at a team meeting and the team lead is not happy with the speed at which you complete certain tasks. And now here’s how he or she says it:
- Das ist zu langsam, das darf ab jetzt schneller werden.
- This is too slow, it has permission to get done faster from now on.
Let’s do a couple more examples:
- “Warum bist du denn so traurig?”
“Mein Freund hat mich betrogen.”
“Dann darfst du jetzt rausfinden, ob du mit ihm zusammenbleiben willst.”
- “Why are you so sad?”
“My boyfriend cheated on me.”
“Then you now have permission to find out whether you want to stay with him.”
- Jeder, der sich von mir getriggert fühlt, darf bei sich selbst gucken, denn ich bin nur der Spiegel.
- Everyone who feels triggered by me has permission to look at themselves, because I am only the mirror.
Did you get the gist of what’s going on here?
People in these examples are replacing the words müssen (to have to) or können (may, be able to) or sollten (should) with the word dürfen.
It’s not mainstream yet, but it’s REALLY common among the people who consider themselves “more on the new age spiritual side” and I feel like it’s slowly seeping into everyday life. At least I have heard it in real life this year multiple times when before I only ever heard it online.
So yeah… my prediction is that it’ll become more widespread.
But where does it come from?
I’m not entirely sure about the origins – it’s probably a mix of “non-violent communication” and ideas of “your thoughts shape your reality” and “manifesting your life“.
The way we speak influences the way our life is and one aspect where we’re being “not nice” is when we talk with too many musts and have tos. I must do this, I have to do that.
And the idea is to try to shift perspective and see life as opportunities rather than obligations and one way is by manipulating our language and not saying (or thinking) müssen.
Like… instead of saying “Ugh, I have to get up early”, you could say “Okay, tomorrow I get a chance to be up early and see the sunrise”.
And in German, the verb of choice at the moment seems to be dürfen.
Well, I think the most important reason is… get ready… a sense of permission slip from the universe.
You see, the new age spiritual community LOVES to talk about the universe and how the universe has a plan for you and guides you. And everything that happens to you, happens for you and for a reason, so you can always look for the growth opportunity.
So if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and you have to wait 6 hours to get towed , you don’t “have to wait” for 6 hours to get towed. You have a permission of the universe to sit in silence and enjoy being in nature.
Or if your partner cheats on you, you have the once in a lifetime chance to look what that has to do with you and how you contributed to it.
Yeah… I know this sounds absurd. I guess you can tell that I am not the biggest fan.
See, in principle, I have no problem with any of these ideas. I’ve actually also tried using dürfen for internal self talk and it did feel different and nicer than the same with müssen. Like…
- I have to find this or that about myself.
- I have the opportunity to find out this or that about myself.
The second one feels more inviting, at least to me.
But the problem with dürfen is of course people are taking it WAY to seriously and use dürfen in situations where it’s REALLY out of place and artificial. Like…
- Wir wohnen hier zusammen, also darf sich jeder darum kümmern, die Küche sauber zu halten.
- We’re living together here, so everyone has permission/ the opportunity to keep the kitchen clean.
Even when using “opportunity” here, it doesn’t sound natural, not to mention using permission.
Some people do talk like that though. They’re trying REALLY hard to avoid using müssen, and in my view, if you try REALLY hard to avoid something so normal like an obligation or necessity – you have a big fat problem.
And also, there’s a certain irony about dürfen.
Because dürfen is about permission, and so all these free spirited, spiritual, often libertarian leaning people who talk about “leaving the matrix” and stuff like that, are at the same time absolutely embracing a word that is ultimatly about HUMAN made hierarchy and authority and they’re imposing 1984 style rephrasings on themselves.
And last but not least… I find this use of dürfen a bit passive-agrresive at times.
Like… a manager telling the team that the quality of the work “darf” improve?
That would trigger me quite a bit.
But of course… mY tRiGgEr. ‘
It’s my invitation from the universe to look at why it triggers me so hard.
In fact, I think “invitation” might be the best match for this use of dürfen.
- Team – Ihr wart zu langsam. Das darf ab jetzt schneller werden.
- Team – you were too slow. This is your invitation to be faster from now on.
Anyway, that’s it for today :)
Let me know in the comments… wait… hold on… in the comments darf be written, if you’ve come across this new dürfen already and also if you have similar new age rephrasings in your mother tongue :).
Have a great day, and I’ll see you tomorrow!