Alien words are now verboten

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The Independent Online
GERMANY'S MOST popular newspaper, Bild Zeitung, appeared on the newsstands yesterday with an unusual apology on its front page. There might be a few cock-ups, it warned, because of new spelling rules.

These are pioneering days in the German media. Since yesterday, there are fewer opportunities for commas in the printed language of Goethe, "Sexappeal" has been banished to the list of verboten alien words and ketchup has been enriched with an "s" in the middle.

After a century of scholarly disputes, and three years of legal battles and petitions, the new spelling rules have finally made it into print. About 100 old regulations have been discarded, although the number of exceptions has increased.

Otherwise, students of German will be relieved to learn, the familiar oddities of the language have survived the reforms. Nouns still begin with a capital letter, the verb in convoluted sentences will remain at the very end, and the gender rules have been only slightly simplified. Dogs will stay male, cats female, and girls neuter.

Nevertheless, the new regime has been hotly contested. Writers, led by Gunter Grass, have vowed to resist to the bitter end, and total confusion reigns in the Land of Schleswig-Holstein, where voters have rejected the rules in a referendum. Elsewhere, schools are teaching both systems.

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