Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The New Word

German primarily dictated by the intellectual elite of Germany....the University system.  Unless they get with an idea of change, it does not occur with the official language book.  It's hard to find any other language this closely guarded and protected.

So you have to sit back and imagine this.  A German professor....a physicist...decided more as a joke than a serious suggest in writing to the word czars of Germany....a change.  You have to remember, a physicist is a guy who studies molecules and gets down into matter and anti-matter.  Things exist, in theory, if not completely explainable.

His word?  Professor, he felt....was a word that only noted a male.  So obviously, by the laws of physics......there ought to be a female word to fit as well. Professorinnen was the choice.

Germans have a habit of making differences between male and jobs....etc.

So this word Professorinnen was the choice.  Remember, it was a joke, not intended to be taken serious.

Well....the language guys held the meeting, and determined that this physicist was right, and have given a 'right' to Professorinnen.  It may take six months for it to fall into all books, and officially noted nation-wide, but it's practically a done matter.

I'm guessing the physicist is sitting there now....scratching his head.  Now of this was serious to him.  It was a joke to start with.  And now?  He's probably wondering what else he could screw with the German language.

Put a female slant on garbage collectors?  Maybe a female slant on pizza-makers?  Perhaps even a female slant on comedians?

There's two obvious things to say about this episode.

Number one.....the German language is something of amazement in the way that word craftsman of the intellectual world protect with great interest.  Once persuaded, it's a bound and determined group.

Number two.....never joke with the German language, because someone just might not get the joke.


Anonymous said...

I don't really get the sense of this story. The word "Professorin" for a female "Professor" is a common German word, the plural would be "Professorinnen". So what's the story behind????

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: That's because the author of the story didn't get it himself. First of all, the German language isn't controlled at all by the universities or some kind of elite.
Secondly, the story behind this is, that one university (I think it was Leipzig) decided to use in future internally (!) only the female versions of such words like Professor for both genders. It started as a joke, because it is common in the Arts to only use the male versions of such words with a footnote, that you are actually referring to both genders. So, the University of Leipzig decided to use the female versions as standard to make a point, but that has nothing to do with the rest of Germany, its language or the word Professorin which exists since the day of female professors.

Letters from Ripley said...

The 'control' of the German language, recognized by most Germans (particularly teachers, journalists, instructors, and graduates of the university system) the Duden. It's a book that has been around for 130-odd years. The Duden is run by the language intellectuals of Germany and never take their duty lightly. For practical use, when they dictate a change, it's a done deal and it could be a light or bold move.

As for the university turn of use? It was an internal move....mostly to go within the by-laws of management within the college. Some folks will also note that there are more female professors with Leipzig's university than males, suggesting there might be more to the story than a joke accepted as a rule.

Eventually, when enough transgenders arrive in Germany...there's likely to be a Duden conference and some word discussion on how they eventually handle the situation to make everyone happy.