Germany, Light Crap

Heiliger shitstorm!

In the tunnels beneath Köln

A shitstorm is brewing in the tunnels beneath Köln

The first shitstorm hit me when Vicky passed me a flyer in German for an upcoming social media conference in Köln featuring one of those tag clouds that everyone was crazy about 2-3 years ago (before everyone went crazy for infographics and totally forgot about tag clouds). It had all sorts of words associated with social media – ‘strategy’, ‘sharing’, ‘reach’, ‘like’, ‘connectedness’ and there in the middle in big letters was ‘shitstorm‘.

We laughed about it that day. It’s a treat to see what English words make it into popular parlance in German. Since my German language skills are still severely lacking, any English word that pops up in the morning news on the radio gives me whiplash piping meaning directly into my squishy brain.

And so it was with shitstorm.

After seeing it in that flyer, it began to appear with greater frequency. An article here, a radio program there. And always in the context of social media. It seems the Swiss had even invented a scale to measure the relative shittiness of a social media shitstorm.

Our chief financial officer approached me one day regarding a potential social media consultant he had sent my way, “You know, I was just thinking, they might be able to help when you’re having a shitstorm or something.”

We hadn’t really confronted any full blown social media shitstorms yet, plenty of regular media shitstorms, but not so many of the social variety. But it was comforting to know that when a shitstorm rears its ugly head, we will be at the ready.

I asked friends why people don’t  just translate the word into German – der Scheißesturm – and they looked at me as if crazy. Like a literal storm composed of shit? No, you would never ever say that. But ‘der Shitstorm’  is okay? Yes.

There were times when I felt like I was just noticing it because I was tuned into it. Like when I bought my first Subaru and noted every Subaru on the street thinking I had never seen so many before. But it was just because my perception had been tuned to Subaru. Was I now cursed to consciously note every occurrence of the word shitstorm?

And so it was with great relief when I saw an article in the Guardian noting that shitstorm was among 5,000 words that officially entered the German lexicon this year as of late June. It states that the word shitstorm was first noted in 2010 – coincidentally the same year I arrived. Perhaps my arrival was the tip of the proverbial shitstorm turtlehead? Or maybe just a drop in the bucket. I don’t if we could ever be sure.

But just in case, I am eager to try introducing new English words into the German phrasebook. If you have any clever ideas, please place them in the comment bucket below.

And without further ado, here is the word cloud to accompany this post thanks to the good folks at Wordle where you too can create beautiful word clouds.