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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shitstorm hits Germany

I mentioned briefly in the 'Bout them Germans post (Nov. 2011) that Michael Lewis had alleged a German obsession with excrement—actually, Lewis refers to the work of someone else, but I haven't followed that paper trail yet. My friend Esther just referred me to an article that makes one wonder anyway: A jury of academics selected "shitstorm" to become the "anglicism of the year" in Germany—apparently, it will fill a gap in the language. [On a personal note, I have often regretted that German has not equivalent for "The shit hits the fan", and I have been using the phrase untranslated.]

Now, what does that tell us about the comparative scatological inclinations of English and German speakers? I don't know at first glance. Yes, the jury selected "shitstorm" when it could have selected "cloud" or "occupy". But this does not necessarily mean that Germans always select the scatological term, given a choice—it may mean that there is, in fact, a dearth in the language when it comes to such terms.

Anyway, some day I may find the time to get back to Lewis and his source.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Word of the Month: Staatsverdrossenheit

With the present WoM, I'm returning to a theme I have touched upon in previous posts (Wutbürger, German funk). This time, I'm introducing a term that succinctly captures the phenomenon in question.

Staat means "state" and Verdrossenheit is a condition that could be described as a persistent ill humor, moroseness, or funk. Put the two together and you have a state of mind that I find increasingly expressed on German blogs, a general unhappiness not only with the government currently in charge, but with the way the country has been administered for a while. Politicians are accused of not paying attention to the real needs of their constituents. Rather, they appear beholden to lobbies and special interests (on the right) or to rigid ideological principles that do not work in practice (on the left), and Staatsverdrossenheit is the result.

A word of caution is in order: Useful as the term is to capture a particular state of mind, I cannot tell, from my distant perch, how widespread the sentiment it refers to is in present-day Germany.