Searching out a uniquely Teutonic answer to those rowdy refugees in Cologne


Cologne is Nordrhein-Westfallen’s largest city and not to be messed with
A whole bunch of refugees freaked out on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and allegedly both robbed and sexually assaulted women who unfortunately were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t immediately covered in the German media, but not because of any conspiracy. It simply wasn’t known about. 
There’ve been allegations that the local police played down the event to avoid attention to their poor handling of events. Politicians insisted that the perpetrators’ countries of origin weren’t as important as the fact that they were criminals and would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

To say that this has been ignored by either the German or the European press is disingenuous. It just took a while for the story to come to light, but come to light it did. And then some. It’s been a major topic on political talk shows, and the opinion pages of the major papers have explored every possible angle. And then found entirely new angles. 

One particularly opportunistic politician has said aloud what many citizens have thought – that German taxes should not go to pay for keeping lawbreaking refugees in prisons. It’s gotten plenty of airtime, as well it should. Many Germans have a long fuse when it comes to this sort of thing – especially in public – as they would generally like to avoid being seen as racist or xenophobic, but this has hit a nerve. 

There’s certainly a sense that what happened in Cologne, as well as similar albeit much smaller incidents in Hamburg and Stuttgart, has crossed a line. Staying quiet and trying not to make too much of a fuss might’ve worked a week or so ago, but for increasing numbers of Germans it’s no longer an option. 

As I write this, there’s a huge protest going on in Cologne. Hundreds of women protesting against sexual abuse, as well as the newest incarnation of the Pegida protests which made so much noise this time last year. In addition, there are counter protests that insist the rhetoric on the streets is dangerously reminiscent of darker times in Germany in the Thirties

I’m not going to wade into a debate here about either Pegida or those protesting against their tactics. Not that I won’t at a later date; I just don’t think it’s particularly useful at the moment when these events are still so fresh. 

However, I have seen people insisting that Germans don’t care about what’s happened in Cologne or what’s going on in Germany right now. These assumptions are being made with little or no connection to what’s happening on the streets here. Whether during conversations at the dinner table or in cafés or pubs, people are talking and arguing and figuring out what needs to happen next. 

Here’s one of the things I like about living in Germany, though: there will be a measured response. Something positive will be done. Will it be as much as either radical fringe wants? Absolutely not. Will there be a thoughtful consideration of multiple possible ways to deal with all of this? I can almost guarantee it. 

Stay tuned for a uniquely Teutonic answer. One often seems to be found. 

lose the words

the cake is very moist

I’m not sure how long this has been going on, but each year some in the German press debate and decide on the Unwort des Jahres. When I asked google how that could be translated, it came up with ‘taboo word‘. I don’t like that at all. Because ‘taboo‘ connotes that the word has rarely been spoken openly, yet these examples of each year’s Unwort are often chosen because they’ve been overused and the judges are sick of them.

Oh, look…here’s a website that’s actually called I’m not sure why they want to get rid of ‘peanuts‘, but luckily I haven’t heard of anyone attempting to erase the word from the English language. I like peanuts. The nuts and the word. If the word weren’t in the language anymore, how would I ask for them? The packages on the shelf in the store would probably have the peanuts inside, but there’d be no name on the package. I don’t like the sound of any of that.

Then I happened upon a New Yorker article titled:

Words came in, marked for death…

It’s essentially the same idea. The magazine introduced what they call a ‘twitter-based game show‘, and in the first one readers were to ‘propose a single English word that should be eliminated from the language.‘ First of all, what’s a ‘twitter-based game show‘? Is that really a thing? Why wasn’t I informed? I follow the New Yorker on twitter. Shouldn’t they have made a bigger deal of this? If we’re eliminating words from the language, shouldn’t more of us be somehow included? It seems only fair.

I’d go through all the words that were volunteered, but you can click on the link. It won’t hurt you.

But one of the words that thankfully doesn’t get any support from the magazine was ‘moist‘. What on earth is wrong with ‘moist‘? I like that word. A cake that isn’t dry is moist. The grass in the early morning can be moist. Wonderful word – moist.

But the New Yorker provides a link to another site called the Visual Thesaurus, and the piece that also shines light on the aversion to this lovely word. Here you can read the results from a similar poll Which Words Do You Love and Which Do You Hate?

What’s the problem with moist? Really?

I don’t get this.

So what’s my Unwort? What would I rather not hear anymore? I wish I’d never have to hear anything about mayonnaise. Just the thought of that stuff makes me nauseous.