It’s the end of a small era: the election for the "youth word of the year" fails this year. No more "babo", no more "smombie", no more "yolo" and no more "I bims". This is confirmed by the head of the pons publishing house, erhard schmidt, to the deutsche presse-agentur.
Whether the election, which is always staged for media attention, is over for good or just a pause "is still being decided," he says. The youth word, this controversial and ridiculed little institution in the german language, no longer exists – at least for the time being.
The background is a fundamental shake-up in the publishing landscape. For years, the langenscheidt publishing house in munich had been looking for the youth word to advertise its "100 percent youth language" lexicon. A jury selected new words such as "smombie," an artificial word made up of smartphone and zombie, the phrase "lauft bei dir," "babo," which means boss, and "yolo" for "you only live once.
That spring, however, the competition, the pons publishing house in stuttgart, which belongs to the klett group, had taken over the langenscheidt brand and the associated products. "The deal came at an inopportune time for the product," says pons boss schmidt. The state of the lexicon "was not such that we could finish the product in a reasonable state this year". And that’s why the advertising for it is now also cancelled.
It’s not really a tragedy, says annette trabold, spokeswoman for the leibniz institute for german language (IDS) in mannheim. "These juvenile words were not quite statistically proven to be correct. There were fads and flashes in the pan."The IDS has been recording neologisms in a neologism dictionary for years. "The selection of the youth word did not meet our standards."However – and she emphasizes this – it is always a pity when an occasion to think about language, to discuss language, is lost.
Linguist nils uwe bahlo, who conducts research on the language of young people at the westphalian wilhelms university (WWU) in munster, takes a similar view: "the choice of the word for young people has prompted us to think about language. Even though it was certainly unscientific, it stimulated such a wonderfully controversial discussion about language."
Because there was a lot of discussion about the youth word. Was it the "gammelfleischparty", an unflattering term for a u-30 party and the first ever curated youth word in 2008, or "fly sein" in 2016?. The expression comes from the hip-hop language and is supposed to mean: someone or something "goes off especially". The reactions again and again: are there really young people who talk like this?? And are they really young?
"Youth languages are, as always, stylistic fads that can vary from group to group," says bahlo. "What they all have in common is the basis: the german language."
According to media reports, another provider had been found in the meantime who wanted to continue the youth word election in a purely online voting process. After the site was hacked, however, he had taken distance from the idea. It is now no longer online. According to schmidt, pons was not involved in the new election campaign. The investigation of a youth word, however, is not protected. "So we can’t ban this kind of action either. We have also made this statement to the company that carried out this action".
Linguist bahlo was – in the spirit of the discussion – "very much in favor" of having the election reinstated. Also, because then his very personal favorite might still have a chance to win the title: the turkish expression cu?, which means something like "oha" or "boah" and almost sounds like the german "tschuss". But for now it’s time for: tschuss, jugendwort!