Wednesday, July 20, 2016

German 4 Dummies: "Elite"

If you know the English word "elite", you also know the German. German elites always come with a capital "E", and the plural form has an "n" instead of the Anglo "s". The grammatical gender of "Elite" is feminine, so it is "die Elite" (pl. die Eliten).  Most members of the German elites are male.

The term Elite has several meanings in either language, and both Merriam Webster and the corresponding German Duden define the term. Webster says the people who have the most wealth and status in a society : the most successful or powerful group of people. 

The German definition emphasizes that an elite is a select group of people of extraordinary abilities and qualities

The blogster is not certain but this is not the first time that it* found a very different approach to dictionary making between Merriam Webster on one hand and Duden and the Oxford English Dictionary on the other. Both of the latter European dictionaries are somewhat judgemental, assigning superior moral and intellectual qualities, where Webster's seems to be more more neutral. The French Larousse falls a little bit in-between, defining elite as top dogs due to certain qualities valued by society, hence acknowledging a slightly arbitrary selection: Groupe minoritaire de personnes ayant, dans une société, une place éminente due à certaines qualités valorisées socialement.

Maybe some up and coming linguist could write a thesis on the subject?

So, the British and German elites come decked out with moral and/or intellectual or otherwise superior qualities.

And their opinions matter a whole lot more than yours or mine, for example, as members of the "Elite Panel" of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the magazine Capital.
By the way, both "Panel" and "Capital" are accepted terms in German, so today, you get a three for one learning experience.

That specific panel is high powered, consisting of 346 company CEOs and board members, 114 leading politicians (ministers or deputies, presidents or vice presidents of parliaments) and 46 chiefs of federal or state agencies and public institutions.

What these deciders have to say is not necessarily very nice, for example, 62% support the recent more restrictive refugee policies.
Other questions they were asked, such as whether they support visa free travel to the EU by Turkish citizens, or whether they are afraid refugee numbers might rise again after the steep drop that resulted from closing the route via the Balkans, really do not require any of the superior moral or intellectual qualities stipulated by Duden.
To find solid reason to doubt the prevalence of these positive qualities of mind and character, simply check the news. 

When it comes to elite and character, the blogster believes that "elite" and "character" should only be used in one sentence when you describe the "Elite" font type, which has 12 characters to the linear inch.

* Gender neutral, friends.

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