A little Cringe – Germany’s Youth Word 2021 Posted by Sten on Nov 22, 2021 in Culture, Language, News, Slang, Television, Traditions, Vocabulary
A few weeks ago, the German Jugendwort des Jahres (Youth Word of the Year) was chosen. From a field with some strange contestants, one word clearly took the cake! What this word means and how it entered the German language, as well as the hilarious way the Tagesschau dealt with this news, let’s explore.
A wide variety of Jugendwörter
The first I heard about it was from the Tagesschau, the prime German TV news program. Nachrichtensprecherin (news anchor) Susanne Daubner presented the Jugendwörter for 2021 in a short video on social media, with a seriousness that you are unlikely to ever hear these words uttered with. They include sheesh, wild, Digga, sus, Cringe, akkurat, same, papatastisch, Geringverdiener, Mittwoch.
Here’s a very short description of what all these words mean, and how one of them is a strange contestant. The Frankfurter Allgemeine did a great guide on these words if you want a more elaborate explainer.
Like many words from this list, sheesh is a straight copy from English – so you’re already familiar with the term. In German, it means something along the lines of Meine Güte! (my goodness!)
Wild, sometimes also spelled wyld, is basically the same as the English again. In the same way you’d say that’s wild! to something that’s crazy or astounding in some way, young Germans might use it just like that, too (pronounced in the English or the German way).
Not a new term at all in German. It’s a term that sounds like Dicker (fat one/thick one), which doesn’t refer to their physique, but to the fact that you’re dick befreundet (chummy) with them. However, over time it has also simply become a synonym for something like “dude” in English. Like that word, it’s mostly used for boys/men. Digga was a runner-up in 2020 as well.
The video game Among Us spread this word when it became wildly popular in 2020 (even though it released in 2018). It’s a game where a traitor needs to be found out, while completing all kinds of tasks. When they do something that’s suspicious, they’re sus. German does have a word that would work perfectly with this abbreviated version too – suspekt. Germans say sus in the English way, though.
Widespread in the English language, the word “cringe” has now also become widespread among German youth. Used both as a verb, adjective and noun (don’t forget the capital letter C in German!), it replaced in part the German classic fremdschämen. Cringe was a runner-up in 2020 as well.
Akkurat means… Well, accurate. Other German words are exakt, korrekt, genau. Genau (precisely, exactly) is used a lot in conversation. Akkurat sounds overly formal, like if you’d say “accurate” instead of “exactly”.
Used in English more and more as well, same just means that – I’ve also experienced this/I also feel that way. Again, pronounced in the English way.
A reference to successful German Twitch personality Kevin Teller, also known as “Papaplatte”. It basically means “good” or “fantastic” – but only to a small number of people. A weird entry, that almost nobody even knew before it showed up in the list. It did so, because people can nominate their own words these days – and the followers of Papaplatte thought it would be funny to push it in. So it’s more a meme than a real word in use.
Geringverdiener (m, low-income earner) is a Beleidigung (f, insult) and means “loser” basically. But it’s used mostly as irony in the form of the phrase “aus dem Weg, Geringverdiener” (get out of my way, low-income earner). It’s used to make fun of snobby, rich people that think they’re better than others simply because they have money. The joke can go on forever, of course, with things like: you have a car? Not even your own private plane? Get out of my way, Geringverdiener!
I’ll quote Constanze in the 2020 youth word post, where Mittwoch was also featured: “Wednesday. Relating to a meme featuring a frog, containing the words ‘Es ist Mittwoch, meine Kerle’ (‘It is Wednesday, my dudes’).”
And the winner is…
The word got the most votes, and here’s how Susanne Daubner announced it:
Aber was ist das eigentlich? Cringe ist das Gefühl, das Sie haben, wenn ich den folgenden Satz sage: “Digga, wie fly ist eigentlich die Tagesschau, wenn sie mit Jugendwörtern flext? Läuft bei dir, ARD!”
(But what actually is that? Cringe is the feeling that you have, when I say the following sentence:
“Dude, how fly is the Tagesschau, when it’s flexing with youth words? Let’s go, ARD!” (that last part is literally “walks with you, ARD!”)
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