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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 August, 2004, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Hunting Germany's linguistic gems
The search for the most beautiful word in the German language is almost over.

Entries for a competition to unearth the most stunning example - organised by the German language council - have been flooding in.

More than 20,000 words, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, have been sent in by email and letter.

German, for example, has a word to describe that niggling melody you just cannot get out of your head - "Ohrwurm", literally "earworm".

"Eisenbahnknoten" is a "knot of rail-lines" or, in other words, a railway junction.

Dictionary dilemma

And "Kulturbeutel" - literally culture bag - is the toilet bag used to take toothbrush and shampoo.

Germany's most beautiful word?
Lebenslust - zest for life
Erdbeermund - voluptuous lips
Teufelsbraten - rascal
Wolkenkuckucksheim - cloud cuckoo land
Glueck - happiness
Liebe - love
Mitgefuehl - compassion
Pusteblume - dandelion
Sehnsucht - longing
Vergissmeinnicht - forget-me-not
Source: Deutscher Sprachrat

The Deutscher Sprachrat institution is offering a two-week holiday in Mauritius as first prize.

The entries are being judged by a panel that includes authors, musicians and film-makers, and Volker Finke - described as Germany's most eloquent football manager.

The competition comes at an interesting time for German scholars, with renewed controversy about changes to spelling rules introduced a few years ago, says the BBC's Ray Furlong.

These are widely detested and ignored by the leading newspapers.

So will it be a simple word like "Liebe" - love, or the more involved "Geheimratsecken," which means receding hairline?

Sunday is the deadline for submissions, with the jury expected to make its decision by October.

MPs reveal language skills
14 May 04 |  Education


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