To Merkel Or Not To Merkel? Angela Merkel’s Name Becomes Verb

Germans are famous for coining words, and it looks like they’ve continued the tradition, with German teens using Chancellor Angela Merkel’s name as a verb meaning “to do nothing, make no decisions, issue no statements,” according to the Independent.

German dictionary manufacturer Langenscheidt runs an annual competition for “Youth Word of the Year” (jugendwort), where people vote on new coinages to discover the most popular. When “Merkeln” was proposed, it immediately topped the leader boards, with 34 percent of the votes at time of writing.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Merkel is in trouble. According to leaked State Department documents, “Merkel” is more like a synonym for “teflon,” so steady has her popularity over the last ten years. NPR reports that the new verb is an indication that she has engaged the youth electorate, typically the least engaged in the political spectrum. But it does indicate some of the aspects of her leadership that people are least satisfied with. On the world stage, Angela Merkel is anything but indecisive, taking strong stands on issues like austerity, staring down Barack Obama over phone tapping scandals, and comforting weeping Palestinian teenagers. In terms of international politics, to “Merkel” might very well be a verb very different from the one being proposed as this year’s youth word.

At home, however, Merkel’s leadership style is acknowledged to be far more deliberate and consensus-based. Germans were particularly critical to the slowness of her response to Neo-Nazi protests against immigration that have recently erupted in response to the European refugee crisis. When these protests began, there was a gap of several days before any comment was forthcoming from the German Chancellor. Social media accounts masquerading as Angela Merkel made posts consisting of nothing but an ellipsis surrounded by quote marks, “…”, to highlight her silence on the issue.

But it hasn’t been all bad for Ms. Merkel. The ribbing seems to be mostly affectionate, and affectionate ribbing of Ms. Merkel would appear to be something of a national pastime for the Germans. In the past they have lampooned her dress sense, her body language, and hand gestures and been rather unkind about her style of speaking. But in spite of all this, she has come in for significant praise for her handling of the Ukraine crisis, her relaxation of entry requirements for Syrian refugees, and her (belated) blasting of the Neo-Nazi movement.

It is believed that if Merkel were to stand for election today, her Christian Democratic Union party would win an outright majority, something no government has achieved since the sixties. It looks as if “Merkeln” or, in English, “Merkelling,” might not be such a bad idea after all.

[Picture via Getty Images]