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18 Mar

No more strokes

Already when writing the word ‘stroke’, one gets a bad feeling. And when a politician publicly uses it, terrifying scenarios of A+E Units, grief, worries, and death form in the minds of his audience. However, not long ago, strokes were something to be proud of and, additionally, a benchmark for special achievements – we speak of key strokes.

Words keep up with the times and sometimes, over time, they vanish completely. Some symbolic exclamations today are only understood by older people. Who still ‘slams the headset in the cradle’? Younger people often shake their heads in disbelief. Because generation mobile and cordless phone knows no telephones with cradles.

So, here we’re at the ‘stroke’ again: in the past, company secretaries were happy if they were able to type a large number of key strokes per minute. For a long time, even the length of newspaper headings was indicated in key ‘strokes’. And today? – Nowadays, the length of lines or texts is always indicated in ‘characters’. And secretaries no longer apply with the number of their key ‘strokes’.

Even remarks such as ‘I have it in black and white’ or the comparative ‘signed and sealed’ provide for amusement rather than respect – after all, writing and documentation is increasingly done digitally. There are still printouts. But the meaning of the above sayings has largely disappeared. And somebody sitting in front of a screen and telling you ‘I’m just jotting it down’ is obviously joking.

Meanwhile, a word once used in German to describe a cunning and dishonest character got another meaning altogether: ‘Link’ is no longer used referring to a shady character. Today, those four letters stand for a kind of cross-reference into the Internet. If you want to send a video concerning your topic to your conversation partner, just ‘send him a link’ – and, hey presto, he can watch the movie with a mouse click.

And what does that tell us? - Language is always mirror of its time! And that's why we always should leave language in its temporal environment - and look at language with a contemporary view. Why should we, for example, ‘adapt’ ancient fairy-tale texts by hook or crook to our modern language?

Does reading out loud get more beautiful when the ‘Frog Prince’ becomes ‘frog prince and frog princess respectively’, maybe even using an asterisk to indicate all possible genders, or with the addition pursuant to the German Equality Treatment Act ‘m / f / d’ (i.e. male / female / diverse). And so many more terms in need of change could be added to that list: gypsy, negro, blackamoor, witch, blood and thunder…

Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave old tales rest and in their time, and to write modern stories for the little ones instead, with new contents, in which the spirit of our times can be reasonably incorporated?

With Best Regards

Walter Thieme
WTH Managing Director