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January, 2004 - Nr. 1


The Editor
To the Editor
Zum Neuen Jahr
Anotomy of Lies
Antje berichtet
Vienna Connection
Zurich Connection
Personal Note
Herwig Wandschneider
German Consulate Closed
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Treatment of Schizophrenia
Bach Festival at the UofT
At a Loss for Words
Events in Germany
Cornelia Funke
Earliest Carvings
Goodbye, Lenin!
German Porcelain Exhibited
Athletes of the Year
Links Eighth Season
World Cup 2006 in Berlin

Languages at a loss for words

  TWIG - Just four years after the infamous Y2K debacle and the world’s harmless transition to the new millennium, words are yet to be found for our new decade – either in German or in English.

Just as no appropriate words have been invented to mean the opposite of "thirsty" or "parched" in either language, linguists continue to grapple with new words for the new millennium, and more importantly, for our current decade.

"Language usage just hasn’t come up with an appropriate expression," says Gerhard Mueller, head of the language consultants at the Society for German Language in Wiesbaden.

Not that there haven’t been any suggestions. The "Zeros" (in German "Die Nuller") and the "Single years" ("Einzeljahre"), are among the many failed attempts at naming our decade. Linguists at the Institute for German Language have even come up with the pretentious "pre-tens" ("Vorzehner"). None of these has made the jump to popular usage, let alone into the Duden Lexicon, the final arbiter of a word’s legitimacy.

While phrases such as "turn of the century" and "fin de siécle" have come to refer specifically to the cultural and historical phenomena in the last decades of the 19th century, modern popular speech has yet to come up with a term for the first decade of any century.

And the term "millennium" itself seems to have slipped into the historical annals of daily usage, less than half a decade after it earned the honor "Word of the Year" in 1999. The futuristic, almost menacing-sounding word is now a thing of the past.

But there is still hope. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made linguistic history by naming his social and economic reform package "2010," as in twenty-ten, not "Twenty-hundred ten," thus paving the way for future changes in the way Germans pronounce dates in the new century.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


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