The Corner

Words That Sting (or Not)

In Impromptus today — the first part of a “Salzburg Journal” — I say something about the word Polizei: which has a stigma for me. The German word for police sounds more sinister than words for police in other languages — to me. This is a personal thing, though I bet others share it.

You remember the Volkspolizei in East Germany, abbreviated to VoPo. You did not want to be caught in the snares of the VoPo, any more than you wanted to be caught in the snares of the KGB (or the Gestapo).

Here in the Corner, I thought I’d mention some other German words: schnell, raus. These words always remind me of Hogan’s Heroes, so help me (though schnell is a fairly common marking in music).

How about Führer, an innocent word, or formerly innocent word, meaning “leader”? You will find it and related words throughout the Bible, as in “er führet mich auf rechter Strasse” — “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.”

Are these words to be . . . verboten (speaking of German)? It’s all in the ear, and probably the age and the nationality, of the listener.

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