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.

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Word of the Week: Gute Vorsätze

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, many of us transform suddenly from inebriated revelers to neurotic dieters as we make shedding those extra holiday pounds one of our primary resolutions for the New Year.

As if wiping our individual slates clean, dismissing all the missteps we may have taken or things we did not get done over the course of the past 12 months, we decide that THIS is the year to finally, for instance, shed those extra 20 pounds, get our finances in order, or spend more time with friends and family.

In German, such New Year’s resolutions are known as “gute Vorsätze fürs neue Jahr“. And “to make resolutions” is simply to engage in “(gute) Vorsätze fassen.

As a stand-alone noun, “Vorsätze” (plural) can be translated, depending on the context, as intents, intentions or resolutions.

Prefacing this with “gute” (good) is generally the preferred expression at the beginning of the year, to express how we have “good intentions/resolutions” for the New Year. And adding the verb “fassen” (grab/seize/grasp, as well as comprehend/realize, among other possible meanings/usages) rounds out the expression “gute Vorsätze fassen.

The expression “mit typischen Neujahrsvorsätzen” meanwhile means “with typical New Year’s resolutions.”

As in the United States, this is a common practice in Germany, where lists of New Year’s resolutions, or “gute Vorsätze,” are not uncommon.