A Deutsche Welle article reports on one man’s efforts to keep fine old German words alive:
Some words simply fall into the black hole of disuse. Some are forgotten because they no longer apply to modern life. Still others are eventually rejected for sounding old-fashioned or out-of-date.
The older, and more literal “Schutzmann” (protection man) has been updated as “Polizist” (police officer), for example, while “Spielautomat” (slot machine) has replaced “Groschengrab,” which refers to the same thing, but in a more colorful manner. It literally means “penny grave.”
Bodo Mrozek, a 38-year-old author from Berlin, has taken on the Sisyphean task of rescuing endangered words and even trying to reinstate some of them into modern German speech.
“If you grew up in the 1980s then you heard about forests being cut down and whales becoming extinct,” said Mrozek in an interview with the Tageszeitung. “But no one lobbied for words and that’s why I think it’s important to take on this underestimated threat.”
In his quest to find the most beautiful endangered German word, Mrozek has invited the public to suggest their favorites through Feb. 28, 2007.
The person who submits the winning word, selected by a panel of five well-known German authors, will receive a trophy shaped like a cheeseball adorned with toothpicks. In German this party appetizer is called a “Käseigel,” which literally means “cheese hedgehog” and, appropriately, is among the many endangered words Mrozek is lobbying for. …
According to Mrozek, German words are in greater danger than their English counterparts.
Germany’s authoritative Duden lexicon is content to let words slip through the linguistic cracks. It simply omits those that have fallen out of use, Mrozek told Tageszeitung.
The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, sees itself as a documenter of the English language and still contains words from Shakespeare’s time, added the author.