Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Schwampels and Jamaica coalitions

Yet another consequence of the German post-election horsetrading insanity: the creation of new words.

In common parlance, each of the big German political parties is assigned a colour. The conservative CDU/CSU is black, the SPD is red (though the primarily eastern German Left Party is annoyingly also red--I always thought they should be, like, scarlet or crimson), the Greens are, well, green, and the FDP is yellow. These descriptors are used judiciously; it's not at all unusual for Germans to have entire political discussions using only colour terms (a la "Too bad that it didn't work out with red-green." "Yeah, too bad. What do you think of red-red-green?" "Too radical. I'd rather see black-yellow-green."). I have long since thought this practice should be adopted by Canada as well--it makes for great shorthand, not to mention some hilarious puns.

This practice is carried so far that a potential coalition between the SPD, the FDP, and the Greens is pretty much universally known by the punditry as an 'Ampelkoalition,' or 'traffic light coalition' (no, really! I'm not making this up!). Well, when recently there started to be talks about a potential coalition between CDU/CSU (black), FDP (yellow), and the Greens, they needed a word for this as well. Enter 'Schwampel,' which comes from the German word for 'black' ('schwarz'), combined with the word for 'traffic light' ('Ampel'). The beautiful thing, though, is that this word got created more or less overnight, and yet everybody automatically knew what it meant. German Green Party supporters were shown on television tonight waving signs with a picture of a traffic light with black, yellow, and green lights, a line through it, and a caption reading "KEINE SCHWAMPEL" (no, um, 'Schwampel'). Even better: a google search on the word 'Schwampel' produces around 12,500 pages. And the best of all: if you think the word 'Schwampel' sounds too ridiculous, your alternative term is Jamaika-Koalition.

I love this language.


cosmicdwarf said...

Guten Tag,
auch ich mag meine Sprache sehr, besonders in solchen Momenten :-)
Es freut und überrascht mich, dass jemand an einem so entfernten Fleckchen der Welt ähnlich empfindet, wie schön.
I just came across your blog by chance (combination of too much time and "next blog" button) and enjoyed myself quite a lot, vielen Dank, ich werde bestimmt mal wieder vorbeikommen....

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Ein deutscher Leser! Nun bin ich aber wirklich angekommen. :-)

Leider ist mein Blog hauptsächlich politisch, und mehr einer kanadischen Leserschaft zugewandt als einer internationalen. Aber es freut mich, dass es dir gefallen hat.