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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Word of the Month: Die Seilschaft

Word of the Month: Index

Seil means "rope". If we add the suffix -schaft, we get Seilschaft, a group of people connected by a rope. The term originated in mountaineering, where it refers to a group of climbers connected to each other along a single rope as a safety measure against falling off the mountain or into a crevasse. There is a strong connotation of mutual dependence and shared fate among the members of the group: The rope provides a measure of safety for each climber, but can also lead to disaster when one of them falls and pulls the others down with him or her.

I think this sense of shared fate led to the figurative use of the term, a clandestine network of people with a common background and shared outlook inside an institution—they have the same Stallgeruch. The members of the group work together and support each other while trying to keep their connection a secret. When used in this sense, the term always has negative connotations. For example, it's employed regularly to describe the situation after the downfall of a (dictatorial) regime when members of the old ruling clique heave each other into positions within the new administration.

Further Readings: Seilschaft vs. Deep StateThe German Suffix -schaft

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