word of the year

Die GfdS (Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache – Society for the German Language) selects ten words at the end of each year, that have dominated the public discussion and have substiantially coined current affairs.

For 2016, they have just published their choices. Here they are:

  1. postfaktisch (post-truth)
  2. Brexit
  3. Silvesternacht (New Years Eve – referring to the incidents happening in Cologne last New Year’s Eve, where many women were harassed by hordes of men)
  4. Schmähkritik (criticism with intent to vilify – referring to a piece of comedy, a poem about Turkish President Erdogan, a German TV person – Jan Böhmermann – aired on his show, after which Erdogan in person sued him for personal insult and on grounds of insults to a foreign head of state. A paragraph, that actually exists in Germany. Jan Böhmermann has been cleared by the courts since. Erdogan’s arguments fell short to freedom of speech and freedom of art, especially, because the piece was expressly marked as satire.
  5. Trump-Effekt (stands for the assumed effects of the 2016 US presidential election campaign and its outcome)
  6. social bots (programs used in social media to spread and repeat certain opinions)
  7. schlechtes Blut (bad blood – a phrase used by Erdogan to describe German members of Parliament with Turkish origin, because they agreed to a German resolution to call the Turkish raid against Armenians in 1915 and 1916 as genozide. The GfdS calls attention to the fact, that in Germany, especially, the term blood should not be re-introduced into any political discussion about nationality.
  8. Gruselclown (horror clowns)
  9. Burkiniverbot (ban on burkinis in France, a law already withdrawn, it still triggered a big discussion about whether to allow Burkhas in Germany or not, still ongoing)
  10. Oh, wie schön ist Panama (the last of the list traditionally is a sentence, this one translates to “Oh, how beautiful is Panama”. It is the title of a popular children’s book but refers to the Panama Papers scandal.)

I think, they pretty much nailed it with this list. I hear, the winner “postfaktisch” or “post-truth” has made it to the top of similar lists in English speaking countries. It will take me a while to fully comprehend the meaning of this word. I think, it still has to be moulded by use. But I have read a very interesting article called Fake News and Post-Truth Politics by The Petrified Muse here on wordpress, which I highly recommend. Here’s a small quote:

Candid advice on how to manage rumours, ‘fake news’, and whatever one might be inclined to call ‘post-truth’ comes from an anonymous early first-century B. C. rhetorician  (Rhet. Her. 2.12, transl. from here):

“We shall speak in favour of rumours by saying that a report is not wont to be created recklessly and without some foundation, and that there was no reason for anybody wholly to invent and fabricate one; and, moreover, if other rumours usually are lies, we shall prove by argument that this one is true. We shall speak against rumours if we first show that many rumours are false, and cite examples of false report; if we say that the rumours were the invention of our enemies or of other men malicious and slanderous by nature; and if we either present some story invented against our adversaries which we declare to be in every mouth, or produce a true report carrying some disgrace to them, and say we yet have no faith in it for the reason that any person at all can produce and spread any disgraceful rumour or fiction about any other person. If, nevertheless, a rumour seems highly plausible, we can destroy its authority by logical argument.”

One may find it reassuring that ‘post-truthism’ is not exactly a modern invention, and one may find some relief in the observation that there are means to deal with it.

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