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Germans brew up a right Sh*tstorm

Quality English word named 'Anglicism of the Year'

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Proof of the pervasive nature of the English language comes with the news that "shitstorm" has been named Germany's "Anglicism of the Year".

Our German cousins have embraced Shitstorm (capital "S", naturally, as is the local custom for nouns) as a way of describing "a public outcry, primarily on the internet".

The term rose to prominence last year on the back of the Greek financial meltdown and the scandal surrounding defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg's doctoral thesis on constitutional law - which was found to contain large chunks of plagiarised material.

Finding their own vocabulary inadequate to the task of representing the resulting hullabaloo, the Germans drafted in Shitstorm, which beat "Stresstest" and "circeln" (to add someone to a contact list online) to top spot in the annual Anglicism of the Year.

The jury explained in a statement: “Shitstorm fills a gap in the German vocabulary that has become apparent through changes in the culture of public debate.”

Previous winners of the Anglicism of the Year - established in 2010 by University of Hamburg linguist Anatol Stefanowitsch - include "leaken", derived from the Wikileaks brouhaha.

While this year's jury described such borrowings as "a natural process that occurs in any language", not everyone is prepared to take the English invasion lying down.

According to the Guardian, both the Society for the German Language (die Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache) and the German Language Association (Verein Deutsche Sprache, aka VDS) are attempting to repel linguistic boarders.

VDS spokesman Holger Klatte said: "We believe that linguists should make more effort to develop German alternatives to new English words, particularly in the scientific and technological arena."

Unfortunately for Herr Klatte, he and his fellow purists are probably fighting a losing battle. A well-known example of the native-versus-imported-term struggle to the death is "Fernsprecher" (literal translation "Farspeaker") as a properly local construct, as opposed to the dominant word "Telefon".

The French similarly struggled in vain against the inexorable rise of English vocab, and now famously spend their samedis and dimanches enjoying "le week-end". ®

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