Leading article: The German strategy

Click to follow
WHEN IS a German word not a German word? How is "ketchup" to be spelt? Is it advisable to have a letter that looks like a Greek beta, is pronounced like a double s, and confuses everybody? German lexicographers have sat for years considering such existential questions. Now they have come up with the Definitive Answer. As of this week: no Ketchup, only Ketschup; Mayonnaise gives way to Majonase; and the character will rarely be used.

The way such questions are decided seems to confirm our national stereotypes. Britain goes for lexical pragmatism; the French turn to the chauvinist Academie Francaise; the Germans wait to receive their orders. Except, it turns out, that they don't. One survey suggests that fewer than one in six German citizens will obey the new edict, because the rules are regarded as so daft. Clearly it's time to bring on a new set of stereotypes.