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We all like abbreviating things. From texting shortcuts to internet abbreviations, from names to government departments. There are differences in how we abbreviate, though. We Germans have a pretty interesting take on it!
Germans like abbreviating stuff. Understandable, as German words can become really long sometimes. Especially for words that are used a lot in everyday speech – an abbreviation makes speaking very ökonomisch (efficient).
In Germany, abbreviations are used differently than in English. In English, words or a group of words are abbreviated with their first letter most of the time. For example: Department of Defense – DoD, imo – in my opinion. There are also abbreviations like UFO or NASA, where the abbreviation is pronounced as a word – that is a Kurzwort (literally “short word” – acronyms).
Kurzwörter are words that are written in an abbreviated form and are also pronounced as such. UFO will never be spoken as Unidentified Flying Object, whereas DoD will most likely be spoken as Department of Defense. In Germany, we have those too: Personenkraftwagen becomes PKW, and Christliche Demokratische Union Deutschlands becomes CDU, for example. There are many varieties of Kurzwörter, but I will focus on a particular kind of abbreviation that is barely used in English, but quite widespread in German: Silbenkurzwörter (syllabic abbreviations).
Silbenkurzwörter are Kürzwörter that abbreviate by taking the initial syllables of different words or word group and creating a new word that way.
For example: Interpol – International Police.
In German, there are many of these! Here a little list:
And many names for brands etc. are in fact Silbenkurzwörter:
Why are these kinds of abbreviations so popular in Germany? I think it has all to do with pronunciation. Vowels just make it all a lot easier to pronounce, and makes the abbreviation much more a word. And guess what: UFO is not pronounced as U.F.O. in German, but as:
Do you know more such Silbenkurzwörter? Does your language use them a lot? Let me know in the comments!