‘Jamaika-Aus’ voted German Word of the Year for 2017

The Society for the German Language (GfdS) placed “Jamaica out” at the top of its list of the most important words of the year released on Friday.

‘Jamaika-Aus’ voted German Word of the Year for 2017
Photo: DPA.

The term not only stands for the collapse of talks to form a new government, it is also linguistically interesting, language experts at GfdS said.

This year's list of words that made the cut contain terms that are socially and politically relevant where frequent use of the words is less important, they added.

The word Jamaica took on significant meaning in Germany in 2017 as it was used to refer to the “Jamaica coalition” talks between political parties after the country’s general election in September.

The addition of the word “Aus,” translated in English to “out,” refers to the collapse in coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Green party and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

In second place on the list is the term “Ehe für alle,” which means “Marriage for all.” In early October Germany celebrated its first gay marriages as same-sex unions became legal after decades of struggle.

Photo: DPA.

But the expression could be misinterpreted because “all” also includes children, said GfdS chairman Peter Schlobinski, explaining that the meaning of the word “marriage” has been broadened.

Nabbing bronze and coming in third place is the term #MeToo. Launched in the autumn, the hashtag was used in a global campaign triggered after accusations of sexual assault were made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

When American actresses such as Alyssa Milano subsequently asked victims of sexual harassment and assault to show solidarity and come forward, the #MeToo hashtag went viral.

Victims wanted to draw attention to the scale of the problem, the GfdS said, explaining that the jury selects terms which hit the year’s “linguistic nerve” and “contribute to contemporary history.”

Last year, jurors picked “postfaktisch” (post-factual) as the word of 2016.

In 2015, “Flüchtlinge” (refugees) was chosen as the term that defined the year that saw record numbers of asylum seekers arrive in Germany.

Infographic: Statista

Two years prior to that, as the Statista chart above shows, “GroKo” was named the year’s most significant word – an abbreviation for the term “grand coalition” between the CDU/CSU and the SPD.

Now, four years later, a grand coalition between Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats is a possibility once more with the collapse in Jamaica coalition talks and the start of exploratory negotiations.

First awarded in 1971, the Word of the Year in Germany has been regularly chosen since 1977.

SEE ALSO: German teens pick misspelling of ‘I am’ as coolest word of the year

For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Qualcosa non torna’

Does this phrase add up to you?

Italian expression of the day: 'Qualcosa non torna'

Ever get the feeling that things aren’t quite right, that perhaps you’re missing something, that something fishy might be going on?

In Italian you can express that with the phrase qualcosa non torna (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-TORR-na’).

Qualcosa you’ll probably recognise as meaning ‘something’, and non of course here means ‘doesn’t’, so the slight wild card for anglophones is the verb torna.

That’s because tornare means ‘to return’ in most contexts – but it can also mean to balance, to add up.

Ho calcolato le spese, il conto torna.
I added up the costs, the bill checks out.

I conti dell’azienda tornano.
The company’s accounts add up.

The Math Seems To Check Out! GIF - The House Will Ferrell The Math Seems To Check Out GIFs

The word can also refer more nebulously to something sounding or feeling right – or not.

Secondo me c’è qualche parte del mio discorso che ancora non torna.
I think there are parts of my speech that still aren’t quite right.

And when something doesn’t torna – that’s when you know things are off. It’s the kind of expression you’re likely to hear in detective shows or true crime podcasts. 

Qualcosa non torna nel loro racconto.
Something about their story’s off.

C’è solo una cosa che non torna.
There’s just one thing that doesn’t add up.

It’s similar to how we can talk in English about someone’s account of an event not ‘squaring’ with the facts, and in fact you can also use that metaphor in Italian – qualcosa non quadra (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-QUAHD-ra’) – to mean the same thing as qualcosa non torna.

Trash Italiano Simona Ventura GIF - Trash Italiano Simona Ventura Qualcosa Non Quadra GIFs

You can adjust either phrase slightly to say ‘things don’t add up’, in the plural: this time you’ll want le cose instead of qualcosa, and to conjugate the tornare or the quadrare in their plural forms.

Ci sono molte cose che non tornano in quest’affare.
There are a lot of things about this affair that don’t add up.

Le loro storie non quadrano.
Their stories don’t square.

You can also add pronouns into the phrase to talk about something seeming off ‘to you’ or anyone else.

La sua storia ti torna?
Does his story add up to you?

C’è qualcosa in tutto questo che non mi torna.
There’s something about all this that doesn’t seem right to me.

alfonso qualcosa non mi torna GIF by Isola dei Famosi

The next time something strange is afoot, you’ll know just how to talk about it in Italian. Montalbano, move aside…

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.