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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Word of the Month: Armutszeugnis

Armut means "poverty", and a Zeugnis is a certificate or, in an educational context, a report card. Armutszeugnis referred originally to an officially recognized proof of poverty entitling the holder to certain types of government aid like legal assistance in a law suit. Nowadays, the term is used exclusively in a figurative sense: When we speak of an Armutszeugnis, we mean that a certain action (or lack thereof) is proof of somebody's glaring inadequacy with respect to a stated goal. It indicates an embarrassing gap between intent and result and can be viewed as a damning indictment of a person or group.

I find the term very useful, for example, when I contemplate the action or inaction of certain politicians or political parties, and since I know of no exact equivalent in English, Armutszeugnis is a term that comes to my mind rather often these days.

Note: The "s" between the two components of the term is a Fugen-s ("gap s"). Its function is to make the transition between the "t" and "z" easier to pronounce. The "eu" is a diphthong and sounds like the "oy" in "joy."