New words 2021: Corona is leaving its mark on vocabulary

As of: December 6th, 2021 12:48 p.m.

From “Vaccination” to “Second Vaccine”: The pandemic has expanded the German vocabulary this year with a number of new creations. Linguists found more than 2000 new terms related to Corona.

No other topic currently has such a major impact on the German language as the corona pandemic. This is made clear by the additions to the dictionary for German word creations presented for 2021.

As the experts from the Leibniz Institute for German Language (IDS) in Mannheim reported, terms related to vaccination itself dominated parallel to the vaccination campaign.

The word list now has more than 2000 entries on Corona: from “flattening” the infection curve to “2G-Plus” to “second Ischgl” and “second vaccination”. While at the beginning of 2021 words influenced by the shortage of vaccines such as “vaccineer” and “vaccinee” were added to the list, most recently there were terms such as “vaccine truant”, “booster vaccination” or “vaccination ambassador”. The new Corona variant Omikron has good prospects of being quickly included in the dictionary.

Current trends in mobility

But word innovations appeared again in completely different areas in the course of social changes. The researchers referred, among other things, to the terms cycle superhighways and mobility stations in connection with the debates about a traffic turnaround, as well as the term “gaffer wall” in connection with undesirable developments in road traffic. The latter is a privacy screen that emergency services put up in the event of an accident to keep gawkers away.

In the political field, the experts noted for the first time the new creations “citrus coalition” and “lime coalition”, which are supposed to describe an alliance between the Greens and the FDP. The term “traffic light coalition” is currently becoming more popular again in view of the results of the Bundestag election, they said. But this is a new word from the 1980s.

Words can also disappear again

The scientists at the Mannheim Institute continuously monitor the development of language. They keep a so-called neologism dictionary online, in which they collect and explain new words. Neologisms are already existing words that are reinterpreted in a different context, word creations or anglicisms that are used frequently.

Once the words have arrived in common usage, they are added to the IDS collection, but also disappear again when they are no longer used. The Mannheim linguist Annette Klosa-Kückelhaus emphasizes: “I would think it would be great if we lost Corona terms”.

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