Angela Merkel's Word Choice Stirs Internet Reaction

| Posted in Funny News |


It’s not unusual to have a word with one meaning in a language, and a totally different meaning in another language. Whereas some words can be translated and adapted into another language, they often lose their original meaning and take another. This is how Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, was able to cause a reaction on the internet, and not only. Not to mention, translation is not that easy, and not all words can be easily translated – a thing the best online translation services always strive to do nonetheless.

At a technology conference that took place last year, Angela Merkel used a word that has its own meaning in German, while its English meaning is quite vulgar. Although the internet exploded, Ms. Merkel didn’t mean it in a bad way. Given she is known as a politician with no drama, the use of the word came as an even bigger shock, which is why the reaction was so huge.

What Happened?

In 2018, Angela Merkel attended a technology conference where she dropped the word. She was talking about an incident that took place some years ago, where she was mocked online for describing the interned as some “uncharted territory”. Talking about the backlash, Ms. Merkel remembers it in a funny light.

She chuckled, after which she declared “Das hat mir einen grosen Shitstorm eingebracht” which, in English, translates to “It generated quite a shitstorm for me.”

It’s known that the word is meant in a vulgar way in English, so the internet didn’t hesitate to comment on its usage by the Chancellor. It generated its own storm, given it’s unusual for the word to be used by someone who’s staying away from drama and preserves a good public image.

But while the word has been adapted into German, it has a totally different meaning in the language. The word is described in the Duden dictionary of the German language. Basically, it means something like “a storm of outrage on the internet”, in other words, the backlash one creates on social media.

This event is not isolated. Angela Merkel used the world earlier too, specifically in 2012. During a discussion with David Cameron in Berlin, the Chancellor mentioned she had to deal with a “shitstorm” after she dealt with southern Europe when it was affected by the crisis.

While many people were in utter disbelief that Merkel could use this word, some had funny reactions. David Simon said “These guys gave a word for everything” after wondering why the Germans didn’t create their own term for the word. Meanwhile, Anne McElvoy posted on Twitter “I can die happy now that Merkel has used the word”.

Some have had different reactions. Michael Steen, who works for the European Central Bank as the head of media relations, wrote about it on Twitter too. Apparently, he tried to explain to his German colleagues that the usage of the word “isn’t really ok in English.”

How Did the Word Enter the German Language?

The first time the word has gotten attention in the German language was in 2010. By then, it started referring to the outrage people express on the internet, mostly on social media platforms, where they’re voicing their opinions. Because it became so popular, it made its way to the top and earned its place into the German vocabulary.

The word’s adoption into Duden happened in 2013, though. The dictionary states that the word originates from English, but with a different meaning.

What Do the Linguists Think?

The linguists find it really interesting how casually the word is used in German, despite having vulgar connotations in English. Given the word has been taken out of its original context, it’s not acceptable to use it in another language, as vulgarity has been taken away from it.

Many are unaware of how the word became something so normal in German, and how it managed to join the dictionary. Some think that it’s simply because Germans saw it being thrown around on the internet during heated arguments, and adopted it. Others think the author John Irving was the one introducing the word. Back in 2006, he used the word referring to the backlash occurring after Gunter Grass, a Nobel laureate, declared that he used to be active as a Waffen-SS member during World War II.

Final Thoughts

A lot of words can be borrowed from other language and given a new meaning – as is the case with “shitstorm” being adapted into German. But when there’s not too much information about the matter, and the word has a bad or vulgar meaning, people are bound to have a mass reaction. Angela Merkel has seen this with her own eyes.

Hopefully, her future use of the word will not be seen as something bad.

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