100 words of the century - but no `Nazis'

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The Independent Online
WHILE OTHER countries are still struggling to erect a fitting archway to the new century, Germany has completed its millennium project a year ahead of schedule. A jury of seven eminent persons from the German- speaking world yesterday unveiled their definitive list of the 100 most important words of the last 100 years.

From Aids to Wolkenkratzer - "skyscraper" - modernity is distilled on to a small sheet. Between now and 31 January 1999, more eminent German- speakers will pen riveting essays on each word, which will all be broadcast during the coming 12 months, and the printed versions will be bound in a nice leather volume. Beat that, Millennium Dome.

Well, maybe it can. One eminent female person in Berlin has already spotted one blatant omission - the list has "peace movement" but not "women's movement". Historians are also feeling a little let down.

Germans have been living in interesting times, so competition to get into the top 100 was fierce. "Fuhrer" made it, as well as "Holocaust", "concentration camp", "deportation" and "genocide". The Nazis did not merit an entry, even though the foreign concept of "fascism" got in. And whereas the "Third World" was deemed worthy of inclusion, "Third Reich" was not.

As befitting a century of wars, the list is weighed down by many military terms. "Panzer", "Molotov cocktail" and "U-boat" are the epoch-making words. "Luftkrieg" - aerial warfare - is there, but strangely, "Blitzkrieg" is not.

From the Anglo-Saxon world the German language acquired several treasures, including "design", "comics", "jeans" and "sex". From contemporary politics, it has gained almost nothing except "reunification". From industry, "Volkswagen" made it as the only trade-mark.

"Currency reform", the creation of the mighty Deutschmarkfw 50 years ago, obviously had a deep enough impact to be included in the gallery of important words. But "monetary union", due to take place in two weeks' time, will have to fight its way into the top 100 in the coming century.