Open Access

Ungainly lexical borrowing? The case of the Anglicism der Shitstorm in German


This paper addresses the origin, evolution, and explosive profusion of the German Anglicism der Shitstorm referring to social media outrage across all registers in German. The word Shitstorm was declared Anglicism of the Year 2011 in the context of a project initiated by a group of German linguists that was designed to characterize Anglicisms as a positive contribution to the German lexicon. Using detailed corpus analysis, this paper explains the origin of the English etymon, its evolution and resemanticization over time. By comparing data from news media corpora in English and German, this study explains why the Anglicism Shitstorm is not perceived as vulgar in German. While German linguists behind the Anglicism of the Year intended to change the negative perception of the increasing influence of English in contemporary German, this analysis explains why Anglicisms like Shitstorm in German can be problematic in international contexts. From a wider perspective on the semiotics of a general German Anglophilia, the profusion of the Anglicism Shitstorm in German is representative of precisely the social media practices the word is used to describe. The case of the Anglicism der Shitstorm in German is therefore symptomatic of the influence social media have on all media.