German Language Blog

Das Unwort des Jahres – faux-pas word of the year Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Culture, Language, Traditions

Today I want to let you know about a strange linguistic thing that happens in Germany every year since 1991. A jury of linguists and journalists regularly nominates the “Unwort des Jahres” (faux-pas word of the year).

Understandably you might ask: why?

Well, the goal of the action is to achieve a more sensitive way to deal with language in public communication and to support the awareness of language of the population. It focuses on inappropriate and inhuman phrases in public language usage.

It is based on the participation of the population that submits propositions of the fax-pas word of the year.

Here are the “Unwörter” of the last years:


Döner-Morde (the Kebab murders)
Referring to a series of murders commited by a small group of Neonazis

Gutmensch (do-gooder)

Marktkonforme Demokratie (market-compliant democracy)
The association to corruption isn´t far, is it?


Alternativlos (without alternatives)
The word suggest in an inadequate way, that there is no alternative during a decision process and for this reason there is no need to discuss certain topics. It´s a good way to strengthen disenchantment with politics.

Integrationsverweigerer (resister to integration)
Spread by the Minister of the interior Thomas de Mazière, this word assumes that a lot of Immigrants resist to their own integration.

Geschwätz des Augenblicks (Blabber of the moment)
With this phrase, the dean of the college of cardinals Angelo Sodano tried to play down the massive accusations of sexual abuse in the roman catholic church.


Betriebsratsverseucht (Contaminated by works council)
Outrageous defamation of employee-voice practices.

Flüchtlingsbekämpfung (Refugee abatement)
Military alteration of control of refugees.

Intelligente Wirksysteme (Intelligent active systems)
Concealment of hightech ammunition, even used officially by manufacterers.


Notleidende Banken (Banks in default)
The proportions of cause and consequences of the global economic crisis are totally mixed up.

Rentnerdemokratie (Democracy of retirees)
As retirement pays should raise (1,1%!!!), former president Roman Herzog talked about a state where the older people raid the younger ones.

Karlsruhe-Touristen (Tourists of Karlsruhe)
Defamation of citizens who call the Federal Constitutional Court (which has its place of business in Karlsruhe) several times.


Herdprämie (stove bonus)
The word defames parents, especially women, who raise their children at home instead of taking a place in a day nursery.

Klimaneutral (climate neutral)
The attempt to promote the expansion of air traffic or other carbon dioxide producing techniques, without showing ways to neutralize this pollution

Entartet (degenerated)
Alteration of art and culture without religious link.

Crazy words, don´t you think?

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About the Author: jan

My name is Jan and I live in the south west of Germany. My profession is being a project manager at a company that creates digital media (first of all internet related things). This is my job since over a decade so I´m quite familiar with the web and its tools. Whereat today almost every school kid does. But that´s one of the main reasons why nowadays there are quasi no more limits in the internet and so it can be used for all imaginable types of things. For example learning languages! And that´s where we are at the moment. I first got in touch with Transparent Language when my family and I used to live in France a couple of years ago. I just had a break from work and by coincidence I produced some cultural videos in French. A few months later the whole blogging thing came up and I was lucky to be a part of it. So now my (second) job is to feed you with information, exercises, vocabulary, grammar and stories about Germany and German language. For being a passionate videographer I´m trying to do this more and more by videos. If you have any wishes or needs of topics that should be treated here, please don´t hesitate to contact me via a comment field. I´m open to your suggestions (as long as they are not too individual) and will try to satisfy your needs.