W örter des Jahres

Chris Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Thu Dec 11 15:59:17 UTC 2008

On Thu, 11 Dec 2008 10:27:21 -0500, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:
> German WOTY: Finanzkrise = 'financial crisis'
> http://www.thelocal.de/society/20081211-16071.html
> German youth WOTY: Gammelfleischparty = lit. 'spoiled meat party'
> (gathering of people over 30)
> http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/6157309.html
> Austrian WOTY: Lebensmensch = 'special friend' (for closeted gay partner)

Ah, you got there faster.

'Lebensmensch' is IMHO the most interesting of the three, by far. In
particular it is not always used in a romantic sense, and not always in a
gay sense. After the extreme right-wing politician Joerg Haider died in a
car accident, his political successor Stefan Petzner referred to him as his
Lebensmensch. However, the press also uses the word for Haider's widow, and
even mother. Meanwhile in the German press, we find Lebensmensch succeeding
somewhat 'Lebensabschnittspartner' (life-segment partner), which was the
somewhat jocular term my generation, in our 20s, might have used to refer
to our lovers (presuming a live-in arrangement). 'Lebensmench' also gets
around the gender-neutrality problem for a life partner of intentionally
indeterminate gender: Of course 'Lebenspartner' (life partner) is perfectly
possible and common in German, but it can only apply to men. As a woman, I
can be a Mensch (human being) but not a Partner -- I'd be a Partnerin. Even
though both 'Mensch' and 'Partner' are both masculine nouns, their gendered
status is different.

The Austrian ones are in fact spectacularly good this time round. The
second place was taken by 'Krocha', a Viennese dialect youth slang term the
meaning of which is best conveyed via an illustration:
http://bureau.comandantina.com/archivos/2008/03/krocha.php . In the third
place, we get Wachteleierkoalition (quail-egg coalition).

We're still awaiting the Unwort of the year.


who doesn't think 'Gammelfleischparty' is new or particularly relevant
right now

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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