Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lingua tertii imperii

The lingua tertii imperii is a term for the Newspeak like use of euphemisms and frequent use of buzzwords by the Nazi propaganda machine. It is the title of the book "LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen" published in 1947 by Victor Klemperer, Professor of French at the University of Dresden.

Klemperer lists different types of word alienations. Probably most widely in use were euphemisms such as Verschärfte Vernehmung (literally "enhanced interrogation", meaning torture), Evakuierung ("evacuation", really meaning deportation), Endlösung ("final solution" of the so-called "Jew-problem"), and Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment", equalling murder).

Many of the bloated and euphemistic linguistic terms are near to ridiculous when viewed today: examples of this include Zuchtziel ("breeding objective" of the Aryan race of superhumans), Defektmenschen ("defective humans", a term for handicapped people), Ballastexistenzen ("ballast organisms", dito), Untermenschen ("sub-humans"), Schweigelager ("mute camps", another word for concentration camp) etc. As can be seen, German is a language suited quite well for creating super-long word conglomerates that can sound quite innocuous while really being quite the horror.

Even today, there are many examples that should make a German speaker cringe: for instance, words like Gruppenführer ("group leader", formerly a rank in the SS, and these days meaning "section leader" in a company) or reinrassig ("pure breed") are still in use today or have become usual again, even though they did carry a wholly sinister meaning during the Nazi years.

Wikipedia has a really comprehensive and interesting glossary of Third Reich terms.

Glossary of Nazi Germany - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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