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Culture

How German teens talk: Germany's Youth Word of the Year is 'fly'

Germany's dictionary giant Langescheidt announced the German Youth Word of the Year 2016 ("Jugendwort des Jahres"). The winner, however, is a term coming from the English language: "fly."

Teens certainly have a way with words - one that is almost impossible at times to keep up with. That's why in 2008, German publisher Langenscheidt decided to run a competition for the Youth Word of the Year, something along the lines of everyone's household dictionary meets urban dictionary.

The results have been impressive at times (when "hartzen" was coined as a term used to describe laziness, borrowing the word, however, from the German "Hartz IV" welfare system) and at other times less so (when YOLO hit German shores in 2012), but always interesting to follow.

Young people get to submit their ideas, which initially are narrowed down to a shortlist of 30 contestants and later distilled to a winner with four follow-ups. Not only does the Youth Word of the Year competition show the fluidity of language but it also provides priceless insights into the minds of teenagers, and their take on what's going on in popular culture and politics.

And the winner is…

With 2016 having seen its fair share of change around the world, the jury selected a surprisingly apolitical word. While in English-speaking countries kids are used to being "fly," the term only made its way to Germany recently and has been adopted by young people across the country.

Skateboarder (picture-alliance/dpa)

German teens can be fly too

In its own thesaurus-style description of the term, Langenscheidt says that "fly" means "to be particularly happening or cool." However, only 4.4 percent of participants online agreed that "fly" should be the winner; the jury, made up of 20 people including teenagers, seemed to disagree.

Other contestants this year included "bae," also a term borrowed from English (which stands for "before anyone else"), "Hopfensmoothie," which translates literally as a "hops smoothie" and means beer, and "isso," which is short for "Das ist so" - "that's how it is." This was also the winner in the popular vote, garnering more than 20 percent of young people's online vote.

Last year's winner was the term "smombie," a portmanteau used to describe a "smartphone zombie." But smombies certainly aren't fly, especially when you're out to have a Hopfensmoothie with bae.

Isso.

Discover the selected Youth Words of the Year since 2008 in the gallery above and 10 other finalists in 2016 by clicking through the one below.

 

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