Tuesday, June 3, 2014

German 4 Dummies: Whistleblower

Warning: Made in a facility that also processes swear words.  

We have encountered the English term "Whistleblower" so frequently in the German media, we began to wonder, do they have a German word for it?

Dict.cc has several, from informant to tipster to someone who reveals things to the public, and Whistleblower. Is Whistleblower used only in relation to the surveillance leaks?
No, they use it in run of the mill workplace informant contexts, too.

The only other writer who comes even within keystroke distance from the K-Landnews TheEditor in his astute and funny observations about German and American culture is Eric T. Hansen, so what would he say?

Maybe: They don't need their own specific word because there are no whistleblowers in Germany.

Not satisfied with a hypothetical answer, we called up our buddy OMG (old mustached German) and explained our dilemma.

I must say this in German, he responded. Wir nennen sie Whistleblower, weil die deutschen Pfeifen sich nicht trauen.

He sounded a tad irritated, which we thought might have to do with his cherished but lapsed top secret clearance not being so top any more according to British IT site The Register.

We explained, They say there is Strap1, Strap2, Strap3...

And Strap-on? he interrupted.

You understand why we think he was slightly off kilter.

Back to his German explanation. Google Translate gets the first part right but fails on the "Pfeife" clause. So, the Google result is We call them whistleblowers, because the German pipe can not be trusted.

Despite a certain weird charm of its own, it is a failed translation.

While Pfeife is pipe, it is also "whistle" and - critically - an insulting slang term for an unpleasant, often cowardly human, maybe best rendered for this joke as "windbag" or "blowhard".

We call them whistleblowers, because the German blowhards don't dare to pipe up.

After our delayed belly laugh, the conversation became more amiable, and we agreed to get together for a beer soon.

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