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Pandemic lingo in Germany features a lot of English words: "Lockdown" is the 2020 "Anglicism of the Year"

Pandemic lingo in Germany features a lot of English words : "Lockdown" is the 2020 "Anglicism of the Year"

There is the "word" and the "unword" of the year. But since 2010, a jury choses an "Anglicism" of the year. The aim is to honor the positive influence of English on the German language. This time it's about corona and its consequences.

The term "lockdown," which has become common in the Corona crisis for closures and contact restrictions, has been chosen as the "Anglicism of the Year" 2020.

"What convinced the jury about the word lockdown, in addition to the central role it plays in the discussion about measures to contain the pandemic, was its rapid integration into the vocabulary of German," the committee around Berlin-based linguist Anatol Stefanowitsch announced Tuesday. The term chosen for 2020 already has a life of its own in German, it said, and is also used in compound words such as "lockdown violations" or "lockdown relaxations.“

The similar word "shutdown" focuses attention on shutting down public life rather than restrictions on movement, the jury said. But it has become less popular than "lockdown," they said, probably because it offers less differentiation of meaning in common usage.

The Anglicism of the Year initiative has explicitly recognised "the positive contribution of English" to German vocabulary since 2010. Among the terms honored so far were "influencer" (2017) and "shitstorm" (2011), or the phrase "... for future" (2019).

Regarding the history of the use of the word "lockdown", the jury writes: "After initially using paraphrases such as "measures against the corona pandemic" or "measures against the spread of the coronavirus" at the beginning of the pandemic, the word lockdown then quickly spread from the second half of March onwards. Another sharp increase in frequency is found from October onwards - since then it has become a fixed part of German.“

In English, the word is found from the early 1970s onward, initially for situations in which prison inmates are not allowed to leave their cells for a longer period of time, such as after a riot. From the 1980s onward, it also refers to situations in which an entire area is sealed off for security reasons. This meaning is also occasionally used in German, for example in reports about rampages at American schools. It was only in the course of the Covid 19 pandemic that the meaning expanded to its current one.

According to the Anglicism Jury, words such as "social distancing," "superspreader," "home office" and "homeschooling" were also good candidates for 2020. With the technical term "social distancing" in particular, however, there had been a discussion as to whether a restriction of physical contact was still a social restriction at all in the communication age. The term is now being replaced more often by the word "contact restriction."

The word "superspreader" refers to an infected person who passes on the pathogen to a large number of people. It is also used with a moral undertone in the search for culprits. In 2020, the word "home office" had become a synonym for working at home on a lockdown basis - and there, due to the lack of a study, often rather in the kitchen or living room.

The word "homeschooling," actually a term for a marginal practice in Germany in which parents teach their children at home in order to keep them out of the state school system, quickly became a catch-all term for school substitute activities by parents or for teachers teaching via video.

The "Anglicism of the Year" joins the ranks of the usual international linguistic reviews of the year. As Germany's "Word of the Year" 2020, the Society for the German Language in Wiesbaden already chose "corona pandemic" on November 30. On January 12, the term "corona dictatorship" was proclaimed "Unword of the Year" by a jury in Darmstadt, in addition to "repatriation sponsorships“ („Rückführungspatenschaften“).

In (German-speaking) Switzerland, "systemrelevant" was named word of the year, followed by "Maskensünder" and „stosslüften". In Austria, "coronaparty" was the unword. "Baby elephant" was the word of the year there. The animal's imagined size is supposed to describe the recommended distance in times of pandemic.

(Original text: Gregor Tholl, dpa / Translation: Mareike Graepel)