Un-word of the year

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The Un-word or Non-word of the year (German: Unwort des Jahres) is an annual publication that names a German word or word group that is considered to be the year's most offensive new or recently popularized term. Between 1991 and 1993, the un-word was announced by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache, alongside the Word of the Year. In 1994, following a row with the then German government led by Helmut Kohl, the jury led by linguist Horst Dieter Schlosser decided to become independent of any state-funded institution.[1][2][3][4][5]

The jury intends to promote the public awareness and sensitivity of language. By choosing an "Un-word of the year", it thus points out words or wordings which infringe upon the principles of democracy or human dignity, or which are otherwise discriminating, euphemistic, concealing or misleading. There has been criticism that some un-words are taken out of a context or have been used very scarcely.

The un-word of the previous year is announced annually in January.

Year Un-word of the year
English Translation
1991 ausländerfrei free of foreigners Xenophobic, far-right slogan referring to an (ideal) community without any non-German inhabitants, which came to broad public attention during the Hoyerswerda riots
1992 ethnische Säuberung ethnic cleansing Euphemism popularized during the Yugoslav Wars, referring to the elimination of unwanted ethnic or religious groups by deportation, forcible displacement, and mass murder
1993 Überfremdung lit. "over-foreignization", excessive alienation Xenophobic slogan referring to the fear of the presumed negative impact of migrants on German culture
1994 Peanuts From the English word 'peanuts' Chosen to criticize the different definitions of an insignificant amount of money by bankers and average people. Hilmar Kopper, then Chairman of the Board of Deutsche Bank, had used the term to refer to a sum of DM 50 million.
1995 Diätenanpassung adjustment of the remuneration Euphemism used by members of the Bundestag to refer to the raising of their monetary rewards. The choice of this un-word criticizes the fact that the wages for German MPs are settled by themselves, rather than an independent body.
1996 Rentnerschwemme lit. "flood of senior/retired citizens" Term used in the political discussion about the social difficulties arising from population ageing. The choice criticizes the "wrong and inhumane impression", the rising number of people in need of a reasonable old-age provision would be "similar to a natural disaster".
1997 Wohlstandsmüll lit. "prosperity waste" Deprecatory term coined by Helmut Maucher (then CEO of Nestlé) during an interview, referring to people who are either presumed unable or reluctant to find employment, who in his opinion would exist because of the highly developed welfare and social support systems in Germany.
1998 sozialverträgliches Frühableben lit. "socially acceptable early passing" Coined by Karsten Vilmar, then head of the German Medical Association, implying that people who die early into their retirement were considered advantageous for the welfare system.
1999 Kollateralschaden collateral damage Military term referring to the incidental destruction of civilian property and non-combatant casualties, which came to broad attention during the Kosovo War
2000 national befreite Zone lit. "nationally liberated zone" Euphemism used by Neo-Nazi groups to refer to a region (ranging from a neighborhood to a whole county) defined by a high rate of far-right and xenophobic crimes, which are considered no-go areas by foreigners and leftists.
2001 Gotteskrieger lit. "God's warriors" The glorifying synonym for Mujahideen was chosen as a reference to the Islamist terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks who claimed to act on behalf of a higher power.
2002 Ich-AG lit. "Me, Inc." One of the measures of the controversial Hartz concept (a reform of the German labor market), which allows for unemployed people to be registered as self-employed and thus eligible for public support for a start-up business. The choice of this un-word criticizes the Ich-AG as a means of artificially lowering the unemployment rate.
2003 Tätervolk lit. "nation of perpetrators" The term is used by scholars to refer to a possible German collective guilt in relation to the initiation of World War II and the Holocaust. In 2003, Bundestag member Martin Hohmann gave a highly controversial speech in which he described an alleged Jewish involvement in the Russian Revolution, using the Tätervolk term in that context, implying that thus the Jews as well as the Germans could be described with the term and thus it shouldn't be used at all, not on the Germans either.
2004 Humankapital human capital The choice criticizes that by using this term, individuals were degraded and classified according to economically relevant quantities.
2005 Entlassungsproduktivität lit. "layoff productivity" Already criticized for being inhumane by then chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 1998, the usage of this term for a surge of productivity a company may encounter after dismissing employees deemed unnecessary had even found entry into textbooks on economics.[6]
2006 freiwillige Ausreise lit. "voluntary emigration" A term used in the context of rejected asylum seekers who opt for leaving Germany on their own terms rather than being formally deported. The choice of the un-word criticizes the euphemistic nature of that wording, as the emigration would not be "voluntary" after all.[7] (For a similar concept in the United States, see also: self-deportation.)
2007 Herdprämie lit. "stove bonus" The term was coined by opponents of the conservative Merkel government's proposal for the introduction of a special allowance for families in which the small children are educated at home instead of sending them to a kindergarten or similar pre-school institution, alluding to the presumed old-fashioned gender role of a mother fully dedicated to the raising of her children. Initially used ironically to describe the alleged chauvinistic, retrograde measure, its meaning changed to defame any parents who keep their children at home, without discussing their actual motives.[8]
2008 notleidende Banken lit. "suffering/needy banks" A wording used during the financial crisis of 2007–2008, by which banks are characterized as victims, rather than catalysts of the meltdown.[9]
2009 betriebsratsverseucht lit. "contaminated by works councils" This offensive neologism (reportedly used internally by the Bauhaus management) describes a business with a strong works council, which takes care of the interests of the employees and thus presses for concessions on the employer's side.[10]
2010 alternativlos without an alternative This term was frequently used by German chancellor Angela Merkel to describe her measures addressing the European sovereign-debt crisis as the only possible ones. The choice of the un-word criticizes that the term would be undemocratic, as any discussion on the subject would be deemed unnecessary or undesirable.[11]
2011 Döner-Morde Döner murders A term used by police investigators to describe a series of murders of mostly Turkish shop and restaurant owners between 2000 and 2006, originally attributed to presumed links of the victims to organized crime groups. In 2011, it was revealed that, in fact, all murders were racial hate crimes committed by members of a previously unknown terrorist group called National Socialist Underground, which resulted in widespread criticism of the police for their initial determination.[12]
2012 Opfer-Abo lit. "victim(ization) subscription" The term was coined by Jörg Kachelmann in the wake of a trial against him on sexual assault charges, in order to promote his perception that women had the tendency to repeatedly make false claims of crimes such as rape, to further their interests. The choice of the un-word criticizes that this term "unacceptably puts women under general suspicion of inventing sexual violence and of thus being perpetrators themselves."[13]
2013 Sozialtourismus lit. "social tourism", welfare tourism Referring to foreigners in Germany allegedly leeching on the welfare system.

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