Language Experts Choose the Worst Word of 2005 | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 24.01.2006
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


Language Experts Choose the Worst Word of 2005

Every January, a panel chooses a word that had prominence the previous year but is judged particularly contemptible. The jury has announced an addition to the vocabulary hall of shame: "Entlassungsproduktivität."


It's a monster of a word, and some say monstrous to boot

It's one of those German compounds which not only look daunting, but also prove tricky to translate concisely into English. "Entlassungsproduktivität" refers to increased productivity at a firm after a usually big round of lay-offs. It is a word used more and more often, at least in economics circles, as companies seek to control costs and remain competitive in a globalized marketplace, often at the expense of employees.

The five-member jury of linguists who chose the "Unwort des Jahres" of 2005 said "Entlassungsproduktivität" veils the excessive burden put on those who were able to keep their job after large-scale job cuts. Its euphemistic treatment of a phenomenon that can have very negative effects on a community did not sit well with the language experts.

Now in its fifteenth year, the "Unwort des Jahres," a kind of vocabulary hall of shame that is similar to the "Doublespeak Awards" given out in the United States, picks a word a year that the jury finds grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic and possibly harmful to human dignity.

The jury gave the second prize to "Ehrenmord," or "honor killing," which it says serves to put an inappropriate spin on "the killing of usually female family members because of archaic ideas of family honor which are unacceptable in our culture."

The bronze went to "Bombenholocaust," or "Holocaust of bombs," a term used by the far-right in German to refer to the World War Two bombing of Dresden and which the jury found minimized the magnitude and uniqueness of the Nazi's genocidal campaign against Europe's Jews.

Economists shaking heads

But economists have called the selection unfair, and have expressed astonishment that words from their field have often been in the running for the year's worst word. Last year "humankapital," or "human capital," took first place. Ralf Kroker of the Federation of German Industry defended "Entlassungsproduktivität" as "a legitimate term, which describes succinctly describes a problem," such as errors in the setting of wages.