Germany's loveliest word?'Habseligkeiten' says it all
25 October 2004 , HAMBURG - "Liebe" - or love - emerged as the popular choice, but a search to find the German language's most beautiful word has come up with a surprise in "Habseligkeiten" - meaning possessions, belongings or effects.The German Language Council said Sunday the word was picked by a prominent jury for "the charm of the explanations" sent in by those who took part in an international contest to find the loveliest and most treasured German word.It beat "Geborgenheit" (a feeling of security) i
25 October 2004
HAMBURG - "Liebe" - or love - emerged as the popular choice, but a search to find the German language's most beautiful word has come up with a surprise in "Habseligkeiten" - meaning possessions, belongings or effects.
The German Language Council said Sunday the word was picked by a prominent jury for "the charm of the explanations" sent in by those who took part in an international contest to find the loveliest and most treasured German word.
It beat "Geborgenheit" (a feeling of security) into second place while "lieben" (to love) came third. However, "Liebe" was the popular choice among the 22,838 people from 111 countries who submitted their favourites.
Organisers were looking for why people explained their particular choice rather than counting up the number of votes received.
"Habseligkeiten" got the nod because of the way it unites two opposites: the human desire for obtaining possessions with the "unattainable aim" of "Seligkeit", which means utter bliss or happiness but also, in a religious context, salvation, the jury decided.
The jury was impressed by the explanation given by contestant Doris Kalka, a secretary at the University of Tuebingen, for her love of the word "Habseligkeiten".
The word, she suggested, does not describe a person‘s wealth but rather his belongings "and does this with a friendly-sympathetic undertone which makes the owner of these things appear sympathetic and kind". For her "poetic-philosophic" explanation, she wins a holiday in Mauritius.
"Geborgenheit" was meanwhile entered by Annamaria Musakova from Slovakia who said: "In my language you cannot put the feeling of ‘Geborgenheit‘ into words. This makes it my favourite word in the German language."
Meanwhile a contestant from Palma de Majorca, Gloria Bosch, chose the verb "lieben" (to love) because "it is only an 'i' away from Leben (life)".
A contestant from Switzerland chose fourth-placed "Augenblick" (moment) because it is "just a subversive idea too long for what it says", and is "more sensuous" than the German synonym "Moment".
The "coolest (as in most stylish, hippest etc) word in German" went to "Rhabarbermarmelade" (rhubarb jam) whose chief advocate wrote in: "And what a feeling of well-being I have when I can say to my dearest on a Sunday morning, ‘Barbara, please pass me the rhubarb jam‘."
The "loveliest word for children" went to "Libelle" (dragonfly) which 10-year-old Sylwan Wiese from Cologne said simply slid off the tongue.
Among favourite contributions chosen by Germans were words such as "Gemuetlichkeit" (meaning cosiness/comfort/good-naturedness among other things), "Sehnsucht" (longing/yearning/pining) and "Heimat" (in the sense of home/native country).
"We wanted to revive the pleasure (people have) in the German language," said Jutta Limbach, president of the Goethe Institute and chairman of the German Language Council.
A selection of the best declarations of love for German words is now to be published in a book.
Around a quarter of the contributions were entered from outside Germany, with most foreign selections coming from the United States, ahead of Switzerland and Austria.
Native speakers and learners of German from around the world had been invited to submit entries.
Members of the Goethe Institute, German Language Council and the
German Language Society chose 95 of the selections which were then
examined by a 14-strong jury consisting of artists, journalists and
The jury included singer Herbert Groenemeyer, writers Christian Kracht and Uwe Timm, film director Joseph Vilsmaier and Volker Finke, the coach of Bundesliga football club SC Freiburg.
Subject: German news