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GermanyinUSA is the home of the monthly newsletter “Germany for Americans”, produced by the German Embassy in Washington, DC. For the embassy’s official website, visit Germany.info.

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Word of the Week: Wutbürger

Over the course of the year, The Week in Germany will highlight a different “Word of the Week” in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.

The series will be kicked off with the official 2010 Word of the Year in Germany – Wutbürger. Yep, Wutbürger. This word – which essentially  means “enraged citizen” – came as an off-the-linguistic-charts surprise to many Germans, so if you’re unfamiliar with it as a self-proclaimed “Kenner” of the language, don’t sweat it.

The German Information Center USA at the German Embassy in Washington plans, over the course of 2011, to highlight the value of the German language via a campaign geared towards college students in cooperation with German language departments at universities across the United States.

The Week in Germany will feature a new word every week, plus occasional brain-teaser quizzes with fun prizes and other chances to participate in an ongoing “linguistic dialogue.”

We hope to hear from you regarding your favorite words in the German language in 2011.

GfdS Names 2010 German Word of the Year

Languages are constantly evolving and expanding as new slang words come into use and find their way into the mainstream consciousness. Often, these new words are emblematic of a particular year’s character, embodying the political, economic, and cultural themes that have dominated communications from mainstream news to conversations around café tables. In order to chronicle each year’s unique character, the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS), or Society for the German Language, selects one word as the emblem of that year. And 2010 is the year of the Wutbürger.

After considering approximately 2,000 words and phrases, the GfdS created a top ten list. Important is, not the frequency with which the new words and phrases are used, but the significance and popularity of the concepts behind them. On the list behind Wütburger you’ll find a parade of words associated with some of the year’s biggest events:

1. Wutbürger
2. Stuttgart 21
3. Sarrazin-Gen
4. Cyberkrieg
5. Wikileaks
6. schottern
7. Aschewolke
8. Vuvuzela
9. Femitainment
10. unter den Eurorettungsschirm schlüpfen

And what is the signifigance of the GfsD’s top choice for 2010?  The word itself is a compound of Wut (anger) and Bürger (citizen).  It was a word that echoed throughout television and print media this year to articulate a feeling of disappointment and anger expressed by citizens who felt that political decisions were being made “over their heads.”  As the GfsD explains on their website, “The word documents a great desire among citizens to have a right to have a say in societal and political projects, beyond their vote.”

For a full description (in German) of the events behind the list’s nine other contesting words, visit the GfsD website.

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