What does the German language have to do with one of the most contentious environmental issues facing North Carolinians?
First of all, remember that some of our best words come from the German language.
Think about it. Kindergarten, aspirin, blitz, diesel, doppelganger, flack, gesundheit, hamburger, kaput, Neanderthal, poltergeist, realpolitik, rucksack, schadenfreude, strudel, ubermensch, verboten, wanderlust, wunderbar, wunderkind, and many more.
Some of these borrowed words help us express ideas and feelings better than we could if we used only non-German English words. So, we should say thank you to the Germans for these great words that help us express our thoughts more vividly and variously.
And the Germans ought to say “Danke” to us as well, because it works both ways. At a rapid rate they are adopting English language terms and using them as they write and speak German.
What does this have to do with North Carolina environmental issues? Keep reading. Hint: It has to do with energy exploration.
The Germans have a contest to recognize the “Anglizismus des Jahres,” the most important English word that has worked its way into the German language.
Here are some of the nominees for the recently awarded 2012 Anglizismus des Jahres: Bail-out, blackfacing, bootstrappen, candystorm, cloud, community, cornern, crowdfunding, facility, fracking, hangout, hashtag, hipster, kickstarter, likeability, liken, liquid democracy, nerd, paid content, paywall, posten, rage, rant, refugee, scripted reality, second screen, sharen, smartphone, snippet, stylish, tablet, three strikes, and todo-liste.
Read over that list again carefully and you will get another hint about the connection we are looking for.
But the first thing I noticed about the list was how many English words the Germans are using that are not in common use here, like “blackfacing” and “candystorm.” The term “blackfacing,” which is seldom used here, got a boost in Germany when a controversy developed over using white actors (with dark make-up) to play black roles. “Candystorm” is used to describe a wave of public support or positive occurrences in favor of a public official or proposal. It is the opposite of the word that was named the 2011 Anglizismus des Jahres, a word unprintable in this newspaper, another storm that begins with “s***”. That contest winning word, also more familiar to Germans than to us, was described “as the name of an unforeseen, sustained, transported via social networks and blogs wave of indignation over the behavior of public persons or institutions that quickly becomes independent from the substantive core and often spills over into the traditional media.”
Of course, you also noticed “fracking” on the list of nominated words, and that is the connection I wanted you to find. “Fracking,” wrote a German explaining why the word should be the 2012 winner, “is a typical loan word that has been adopted as the name of a previously unknown and therefore unnamed thing. It fills an important gap in the German vocabulary.”
Now that we see the connection between North Carolina environmental issues and the Germans’ use of our words, we might think that fracking would have been named 2012 Anglizismus des Jahres.
It did not happen. “Fracking” finished third, after second place “hipster.” What does that word mean to Germans? “What qualities actually make hipsters remains very vague,” said one of the judges, “But one thing is clear: hipsters are always the others.”
And the final 2012 winner was “crowdfunding.” The contest judges explained, “The word refers to a new form of capital for a new product or project that is presented on the internet to secure the required sum from many small individual contributions.”
I know that word crowdfunding and, following the Germans’ lead, I like it better than fracking.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs at noon on Sundays and at 5 p.m. Thursdays on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch
This week’s (June 23, 27) guest is Anna Jean Mayhew: author of “The Dry Grass Of August.”
A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.