Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Coronavirus Edition

alex atkins bookshelf wordsGerman, like English, can create long compound words from many parts of speech; however, the difference is that English words tend to be short and hyphenated (eg, “fact-check”) while German words tend to long and combined without any hyphens or spaces (eg, “Trittbrettunsterblichkeit”, which translated means “immortality achieved by riding on someone’s coattails.”) But it is German’s basic structure that encourages words to be formed by combining several words together without any connectors. A German reader simply  breaks down each part to derive its figurative or literal meaning. For example, in English you would write, “the card from the automat of the steam-powered ship traveling on the Rhine.” However, in German, you would simply write “Rheindampfschiffautomatenkarte.” Since necessity is the mother of invention, every language around the globe has has had to introduce new words to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and related topics. According to Christine Mohrs, a researcher at the Leibniz Institute for the German language, Germans have coined more than 1,200 new coronavirus-related words. Many languages grow by using loanwords, words borrowed from another language. German, for example, borrows words from English that will be evident in some of these neologisms. Here are some of the interesting words that Germans uses to discuss coronavirus related things (literal translation in parentheses), although not all will make it into the official German dictionary:

Anderthalbmetergesellschaft: social distancing (“a meter and a half society”)

Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung: certificate of disability

Ausbruchsgeschehen: outbreak events

Ausgangsbeschränkung: lockdown (“exit restriction”)

Behelfsmundnasenschutz: face mask (“makeshift mouth nose protection”)

Coronatestzentrum: corona test center

Coronasuperverbreiter: corona super spreaders

Ellenbogengesellschaft: elbow society

Frischluftquote: fresh air quota

Fussgruss:  safe hello (“foot greeting”)

Gesichtskondom: face mask (“face condom”)

Impfstoffnationalismus: vaccine nationalism

kontaktlose Zustellung: contactless delivery

Mindestabstandsregelung: social distancing (“minimum distance regulation”)

Mundschutzmode: face mask (“mouthguard fashion”)

Notfallkinderzuschlag: emergency child allowance

Onlineparteitag: online party conversation

Präsenzveranstaltung: face-to-face event

Salamilockdown: partial lockdown, a lockdown that happens in slices (“salami lockdown”)

Spuckschutzschirm: face mask (“anti spit screen”)

telefonische Krankschreibung: telephone sick leave

Wirtschaftsstabilisierungsfonds: economic stabilization fund

Zoomfatigue: burnout from overuse of zoom conferences (“zoom fatigue”)

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