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These Words of 2017 Sum up Each of These 7 European Countries Perfectly

Picture of Tara Jessop
Updated: 10 January 2018
Want to know what’s been on people’s minds this year? Look no further than the Word of the Year, an unofficial competition organised in countries across the world to determine what has been the most important word that year. Giving a good idea of the local zeitgeist, these words from across Europe say a lot about what has caught Europeans’ attention in 2017.

Spain: Aporofobia or ‘fear of poor people’

The word is a relatively new addition to the Spanish lexicon, having only recently been incorporated into the Spanish Language Dictionary. It was coined by Valencian philosopher Adela Cortina in a number of articles she wrote in which she explained that it was aporofobia that could explain Spain’s anti-refugee and anti-immigrant feelings.

Germany: Jamaika-Aus or ‘Jamaica out’

First awarded in 1971, the German Wort des Jahres or ‘Word of the Year’ for 2017 was the curious expression ‘Jamaica Out’. It was formulated to refer to the so-called ‘Jamaica coalition’ – owing to the colours of each party – of the CDU/CSU (black), FDP (yellow), and the Green Party. While the ‘out’ refers to the fact that the coalition talks collapsed when the FDP ultimately pulled out.

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Angela Merkel in talks | © European People’s Party

Norway: falske nyheter or ‘fake news’

This year’s Norwegian word of the year, as chosen by the official Language Council of Norway, is falske nyheter or as we know it, ‘fake news’. While the organisers recognised this was not a new word for 2017, they stated that the word’s usage had exploded this year both in the context of US politics and Norway’s own general election.

France: Renouveau or ‘renewal’

An air of optimism prevails in France as the public voted for ‘renewal’ as the word of the year for 2017. The newspaper 20 Minutes explained it was a renewal of ideas, people and practices that topped the list of French priorities this year. Let’s see if Monsieur Macron can deliver just that to the French people.

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A child bears a French flag | © Lorie Shaull

Switzerland: harcèlement or ‘harassment’

According to linguists from the Zurich University of Applied Science, harcèlement was ‘without doubt the word that made the greatest impression throughout 2017’ in French-speaking Switzerland. While over in the German-speaking part of the country, the same theme prevailed as the expression ‘#metoo’ was the judges’ top choice.

UK: ‘youthquake’

In the UK the word of the year according to the Oxford Dicitionary is none other than the neologism ‘youthquake’, which is described as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’. For instance, the rise of support for Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 snap election was attributed to a ‘youthquake’ as younger voters turned out en masse to support him.

Portugal: incêndios or ‘fires’

The tone is altogether more sombre in Portugal where publishing house Porto Editora announced that the 2017 word of the year was incêndios or ‘fires’. This was the year when wild fires ravaged much of the Portuguese countryside, causing over one hundred fatalities and destroying huge swathes of land.

Italy: spelacchio or ‘the mangy one’

At first glance it could seem that things are altogether more light-hearted over in Italy where the word of the year was voted as spelacchio. The word refers to the official Christmas tree of Rome which began shedding its needles shortly after it was erected in Piazza Venezia and earned it the nickname ‘the mangy one’. However, the runner-up for word of the year was ‘fake news’, which shows that the Italians weren’t quite as unpreoccupied by worldly goings-on as they seemed.

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The speclacchio in Rome | © Carlo Raso

Austria: vollholler or ‘total nonsense’

The Austrians chose vollholler as 2017’s word of the year, an expression coined by former chancellor Christian Kern of the Social Democratic Party. He used the word to react to the news that the Foreign Minister had called for the ‘Mediterranean escape route’ to be closed, stating that ‘this is, quite frankly, the next populist total-nonsense’.

Belgium: ‘fake news’

Norway wasn’t the only country to choose ‘fake news’ as their word of the year, as readers of Belgian newspaper Le Soir voted for the expression in December. Unlike their Scandinavian counterparts they opted for the original English version and explained that, while the word had been popular in 2016 already, this year marked a new era of usage where it became more commonplace, used in jokes and plays on words.

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Fake news | © Marco Verch

The Netherlands: appongeluk or ‘app-accident’

It seems that so common is the problem of traffic accidents involving someone using their phone while driving that the Dutch have given the situation its own name. Appongeluk can roughly be translated as ‘app-accident’ and is a growing phenomenon in the county where 20% of some seventy thousand voters chose it as word of the year.