Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Friday, October 1, 2010

Word of the month: Nibelungentreue

Word of the Month: Index

Let me start with a story: The coach of the German national soccer team, Jogi Löw, nominated two forwards (Podolski and Klose) to the squad he took to the World Cup in South Africa this summer that raised eyebrows: Podolski had just finished a miserable season for his club, and Klose hadn’t even played on a regular basis—he had been warming the bench for players in better form. But when playing for the national team, they had scored reliably year after year—often the winning goal in clutch situations. So, Löw owed them and was subsequently accused, by some critics, of Nibelungentreue when he nominated them. What did the critics mean by that?

The term Nibelungentreue combines two words: Treue, which, in this context, means “loyalty“; and Nibelungen, which refers, in Norse and Germanic myths, to the royal family of the Burgundians, whose capital was Worms on the Rhine river. The tale of their downfall is told in the Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs), an epic from the middle ages, in which misplaced loyalty plays a major part. Nibelungentreue, then, refers to a form of blind loyalty that persists beyond reason or to a point where it becomes counterproductive. My first comment will give a little more literary and historical background for this altogether interesting term. (And no, Löw's loyalty turned out to be no Nibelungentreue in the end: Both Podolski and Klose played well enough all through the Cup to silence the critics.)

Keep in mind that the Nibelungen in Nibelungentreue should not be confused with the Nibelung in Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung—he is a dwarf (Alberich), and the Nibelungen are a race of dwarfs in the Ring cycle.

Note on pronunciation: Watch your vowels! The i is a long "ee“ as in "see"; the "u“ a short "oo“ as in "foot“; and the "eu“ a diphthong as the "oy“ im "joy“: NEE•bah•loong•en•TROY•ah.