Advent Calendar 9 – Unword Award

Unword Award

Hello everyone,

day 9 of the generation defining Advent Calendar, and this time, I’ll want to tell about a neat little tradition about German:

das Unwort des Jahres

It’s hard to translate Unwort directly, but it is basically a yearly award for a word (or phrase) that pops up and kind of goes “viral” in the public discourse of the year that’s actually kind of an “weird” twist of a phrase.
It exists since 1991 and it was started as the counterpart for the much older Wort des Jahres, but I feel like the Unwort gets a LOT more attention in the media.
How it works is, everyone can submit suggestions together with an explanation why, and then there’s a period of public discussion (though only very few nerds actually participate). And then a jury from German philologists and journalists picks a winne – on January 12th 2021 to be exact.

Now, originally, I just wanted to tell you about the concept of Unwort and then go on to tell you my personal favorites for THIS year.
But it was actually kind of fun to look up the old ones and think about the context they came from. So I decided that today, I’ll give you a few older examples and keep my predictions for another day :).
So yeah… here you go.

2007 –Herdprämie”

Literally, this means “stove prize/premium” and it referred to a program that would pay government money to families who DON’T send their kids to public kindergarden. The official name was “Betreuungsgeld“, which translates to something like “taking care money”. But critics dubbed it Herdprämie, because they argued that it promoted outdated family roles where the woman stays at home (and cooks). 
Regardless of what you think about the political side of it … the word is pretty weird :).

2008 – “notleidende Banken

This was in the depths of the European financial crisis and translated literally, it means “banks suffering hardship” and it was used extensively in the media. The reason it was selected because it makes it sound as if banks are on the same level as people who don’t know if the money is gonna be enough for the month, when in reality all their managers are fairly comfy financially.

2011 – “Döner-Morde

Döner-Morde, literally “kebab-murders”, referred to a series unsolved killings of people with a migration background, spanning several years and the whole of Germany. The 6th victim was shot at his kebab stand and the police suspected that it might be related to Turkish drug cartels. A newspaper coined the term and later it spread throughout the mainstream.
In 2011, by chance, it came out that the by then 9 murders were all committed by a Nazi terror cell, which was also responsible for 45 attempted murders and several bombings. 

2017 – “alternative Fakten

You all know this one of course, because it is an import from the US. But yeah… “alternative” facts just isn’t a thing, but the concept happily lives on to today.

I hope you have an idea what the Unwort is :).
If you want to know more, you can check out their website. They list all the words since 1991, and often even second and third place, together with a bit of context and why they picked it. It’s all in German, though, so you need to be B2 to read it.

“Unwort des Jahres – Archive”

In a few days, I’ll tell you my personal favorites for this year, but if you’re in Germany or if you are following German news, I’d really curious if you have a guess as well :).
And also, let me know if you have something like that in your country. I think it’s a fun little tradition and I’d love to know some examples from other languages.
So yeah… let me know in the comments, have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

I don’t know about official Australian ‘Unwörte’ but my german then girlfriend (now wife) was trying to say hospitable and came up with ‘hospitiful’: I imagine coming to a BBQ with 20 people and finding 6 sausages, 1 tomato cut up and a 6 pack of beer. It isn’t a word, but it should be.

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago

Maybe “Enthamstern” will become a Unwort when the pandemie ends and we need to cook all the rice, noodles, beans, etc. that we have stored.

Roger H
1 year ago

How about “Herdenimmunität” or its synonym “Herdendummheit” ?

Ich glaube nicht mehr, dass Gott Amerika segnet :-(

Roger H
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

In England they like to talk about herds of people in the same breath as hordes of people :-) Same derivation?

Brexit is all about the british behaving like sheep heading in herds to the abattoir … being English myself I recognise the Herdendummheit of those british people who believed so many lies about the EU (even though the EU produced 7 decades of peace and prosperity in Europe). If ever there was a time when you could trust the british it has long ago disappeared. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !!

Charli007
Charli007
1 year ago

I would go for „Neuinfektionen“! That’s the word which media used worldwide to scare the people and deceive them.  It’s a perfect semantic Betrug!
Instead to say “positive PCR-tested” they falsely reporting „Neuinfektionen“.
The positive test is neither the same  as an infection nor the same as a disease. 
PCR tests do not say anything about  whether a person is sick or whether they are infectious, i.e. can infect others with COVID-19.
Actually 22 scientists send their request to “Eurosurveillance” to stop Corman-Drosten-Paper.
“External peer review of the RTPCR test to detect SARS-CoV-2 reveals 10 major scientific flaws at the molecular and methodological level: consequences for false positive results.”
https://cormandrostenreview.com/report/

Charli007
Charli007
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

My proposal is for the word „Neuinfektionen“ which is quite different from “Infektion”. PCR – Polymerase chain reaction is a technique used to “amplify” small segments of DNA, but with this technique we cannot detect an infection. This was confirmed also by its 
inventor – Kary Mullis. According to RKI all PCR which are set for above 25 cycles are considered false. Mr Drosten set his test for 40 cycles. 
I would recommend you to see this interview with Dr Fuellmich who filed the court case against Mr Drosten
BASTA BERLIN SPEZIAL– MILLIARDENKLAGE GEGEN DROSTEN UND CO! https://youtu.be/4oVtPs-FVU4

Zenon
Zenon
1 year ago

Hier ist eine Liste, die aus meiner Mutterbundesland kommt, von Unwörter, die Leute “lieben zu hassen” :) Banished Words List – Lake Superior State University

Desdra
Desdra
1 year ago

The American Dialect Society does a word of the year, word of the decade, and word of the millennium. It’s mostly linguistics but anyone can join in the vote. This year it’s:

“The American Dialect Society, or ADS, chose “(my) pronouns” for its 30th annual pick, recognizing its use as an introduction for sharing one’s set of personal pronouns. The society considers both words and phrases when making its picks.

In addition, the society picked the singular “they” — its 2015 “Word of the Year” — as its “Word of the Decade.” The singular “they” was recognized for its growing use to refer to a person whose gender identity is nonbinary.”

You can check out all the prior words at: https://www.americandialect.org/woty

It’s interesting to see why they picked the words they did. There is SO much history behind English words and their usage can change drastically.

Lucas
Lucas
1 year ago

Hallo!
Ich wusste über diesen “Preis” nicht. Vielleicht ein guter Kandidat wäre “Querdenker”. Ich lese es häufig in deutscher Medien. Also ist das sehr ironisch, weil die, die sich so selbst benennen, manchmal nicht so erleuchtet sind.
Viele Grüße aus Argentinien und vielen Dank für diesen Adventskalender!

Fanny Hensel in Maine
Fanny Hensel in Maine
1 year ago

Hi Emanuel, I hadn’t heard about this contest before, but I think it’s great. Here are some Unwörte/buzzwords/jargon/meaningless phrases ripped straight from the news here in the US: “Mainstream Media” [there’s also the Far-Right further corruption of that term as “Lamestream Media”, ugh!] and of course, “Fake News”… thanks to our soon-to-be-ex-president. Then, at a more personal level, there’s “The New Normal” and “It is what it Is” and “IRL” (in real life.)

Fanny Hensel in Maine
Fanny Hensel in Maine
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

O Gott! How did I miss that one?? I guess because I don’t watch TV…. Well, thanks to you, I found this cool site: https://malaphors.com/2020/09/07/were-really-rounding-the-turn/

Dawson
Dawson
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

That makes me wonder, has there been a German equivalent to the phrase “flattening-the-curve”? (“bogenplatten”?) If so, and if that’s been used in Germany as much as in the US, I would nominate it.

Anne Maxwell-Jackson
Anne Maxwell-Jackson
1 year ago

Good fun, both Emmanuel’s blog and the responses.

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
1 year ago

Hallo lieber Emmanuel,
Hier gibt ‘s nicht ” unwort des jahres” . Doch gibt’s ” mot de l’annee. “, also Wort des Jahres .
Dieses Jahr, Confinment (= Quarantäne) ist das Wort des Jahres 2020 in Frankreich.
Ich finde dass Unwörter sind nicht von guten Geschmack gewählt worden . Wie könnte man beurteillen
Wörtern wie Gastarbeiter, Ausländerfrei, ……… etc . Es ist ein bischen Heuchlei der Fontionnäre der amtlichen Abteilungen Der Regieurung (oder Marktsprachlehre ??? ) .
Bis Morgen

Queene42
Queene42
1 year ago

Good one, Emanuel! I’m going to check out your Archive for the other years.

LCantoni
LCantoni
1 year ago

Corona-Krise – ich sehe es jeden Tag in der Wiener Zeitung.

Larry
Larry
1 year ago

Emanuel: Did Herdprämie actually come to exist as a government payment, or was it just a news thing? If we did this in the US there would be screaming crowds with guns outside every legislators house, or police intrusion into private citizens houses…WAIT, that’s going on now.

Pia
Pia
1 year ago

In Australia (I am not sure if you know this country ) we have a habit of shortening words. The words for 2020 are iso, rona and quazza. That is isolation, corona and quarantine

pmccann
pmccann
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

We usually just say “Oz” for “Australia”. I usually hear “roni” (rhymes with phony) now, rather than “rona”, was jetzt ein bisschen altmodisch ist ;-)

pmccann
pmccann
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ha! Veronica should make you think “Ronny”, not “ROHni”. And I’m out of here before the IPA police come pouring in and make a(nother) scene…

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Pia

Bonzea words! (being an Aussie myself)

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Pia

In Australia we would say “I slept in, I had brekky in the arvo!”

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
1 year ago

Unwort makes me think of Unkraut, weeds – and Unwort behave just like Unkraut.

swansilhouettes
swansilhouettes
1 year ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

Learned another cool German word, thanks!

Mateusz
Mateusz
1 year ago

I’ve seen translation of “Unwort” as “Antiword”. How do you feel about this translation? ;)

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Personally I love “Bio-Deutsche”, even if ethnic epithets are always a Heisse Kartoffel in Germany.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Hi Enmanuel!
In Japan the “Unwort” started in 1995.
The “Unwort” for 2020 is “Sanmitsu” which means “three Cs”. To prevent Covid-19 infection we have to avoid “Closed spaces, Crowds and Close-contact situations“.
Regards,

Fancypantser
Fancypantser
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

In den USA haben wir das WTF System.
W – wait til someone asks you to wear a mask.
T – Tell them to F-off.
F – Facebook about how you „won the freedom war“ (without your chips, because they didn’t actually let you into the store).

Charli007
Charli007
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

There is a new one :

A – Allragsmaske
N – Nähe vermeiden
A – APP
L – Lüften

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago

I had heard about the Wort des Jahres and Jugendwort des Jahres, but not this. I think it’s an interesting and creative way to draw attention to some of the problems in society.

I looked up what some of the candidates are. Corona seems to be the big topic – no surprise – but I feel like it could be opening a can of worms to talk about that, so I went with the totally uncontroversial topic of immigration and did some light reading about Abschiebepatenschaften.

How could things possibly go wrong when you have expedited asylum proceedings and countries that don’t want to take in migrants sending them back to their home countries? Just look at what the U.S. has done the past several years.

Besides, there are way more efficient ways to solve the problem, like, oh, giving people fake court dates, or shipping them back to their home countries while they’re waiting for a hearing, or sending their kids off to some other part of the world without keeping any records of it. Bonus points if you have kids under 5 “represent” themselves in court. Ugh. Sorry, I guess I had some frustration to let out.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oh, good to know. I was a little confused why an Austrian site was writing about it, but I was trying to decide between a German site with less words and annoying pop-ups, or this article with a science-y name and more words (but the lists overlapped some). My late night brain went with “more is better.”

There’s a lot in politics that makes me wonder what they were smoking. Like, I understand trying to reach a compromise. But common sense should still have a role….I would hope.