Due to German history (Nazi Germany, Stasi) there are a lot of terms and phrases that can cause a very negative connotation.

A simple invented example would be

Der totale Sommer-Ausverkauf (based on totaler Krieg)

You will find with Google some companies/public persons who made this faux pas of using Nazi-Jargon and were forced to draw their advertisements/comments back. Of course, some use this obviously as a publicity tool too (media echo), while more and more are just not aware of the whole Nazi-Jargon.

So does anyone here know or has a pretty complete word list covering terms and phrases one should avoid or at least be aware of distinct connotation?

Update: There is a very similar question in German

Didn’t notice the duplicate; question edit preview didn’t show it as this is in English. So vote to close or keep open according to META discussion. I think it’s an interesting question for non-native visitors here and the German question title looks a bit hard to find by search. I would prefer to formulate questions with historical/non-native aspects in English to gather more attraction.

  • 4
    Der Begriff total ist nicht sonderlich belastet. Allerdings passt er nicht ganz zu Sommerschlussverkauf, der Laden wird da ja nicht leer gekauft. Bei Ausverkäufen wegen Geschäftsaufgabe ist 'Total-Ausverkauf' aber üblich und passend.
    – bernd_k
    Sep 4, 2011 at 13:14
  • 3
    Strongly related: Welche dieser Wörter/Aussprüche sind tabu? Sep 4, 2011 at 14:11
  • @bernd stimme ich zu, ist aber nicht ganz die Frage "Der totale ..."(Adjektive UND Pronomen) hat für mich schon ein Gschmäckle, aber das mögen subj. Nuancen sein. total allein ist unverdächtig mittem im Satz.
    – Hauser
    Sep 5, 2011 at 10:12
  • @Hendrik Danke hat mir die Vorschau nicht angezeigt, da deutsch meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/14/… Was Meta dazu sagt. Weiss nicht ob schliessen oder offenlassen. Evtl. bräuchten wir zumindest zweisprachige Fragetitel für die Suche?
    – Hauser
    Sep 5, 2011 at 10:15
  • @Hauser: Ich weiß auch nicht genau. Ich habe aber nichts dagegen, wenn diese Frage offen bleibt. Sep 5, 2011 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


You can't build a sharp list of words and expressions which are taboo. Total is total unproblematisch in most cases. In combination with war (totaler Krieg) or in the phrase Wollt Ihr den totalen ... it is problematic.

But for a political person, many phrases remind them of special persons which used them in some context, and would avoid them therefore, for example:

  • geistig-moralische Wende (H. Kohl, mid/end of 80ies)
  • ein lupenreiner Demokrat (Schröder about Putin)
  • die Rente ist sicher
  • niemand hat vor eine Mauer zu errichten (Ulbricht, shortly before the DDR raised the wall)
  • Ich lieb Euch doch alle (Stasi-Boss Mielke, in the time called Wende)
  • alternativlos (repeatedly used by A. Merkel)
  • klammheimliche Freude (a student, called mescalero, in the early time of the RAF-terrorism)

If you know these phrases, and can map them to a person, a party and a historic situation, you woulnd't use them without intend. Even if you sympathise with the one, who used it originally.

What I want to say, is: It isn't a specific taboo, bound to Nazis or the SED-dictatorship. I'm sure, there are similar taboos in every nation and language. I vaguely remember a collection (but translated to German) about sayings from Ronald Reagan, Reich des Bösen (country of the evil) about the USSR, for example.

  • +1 good point and examples. But there are also terms not related to persons, like Jedem das Seine, Kraft durch FreudeHere are some further interesting examples 20min.ch/wissen/history/story/…. I think this is probably a interesting research topic, language of Nazis, Neusprech, ... and still think there may exist a list or good Book covering this topic. You should crosspost your answer to the similar question if this get closed.
    – Hauser
    Sep 5, 2011 at 10:33
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    The germanist Victor Klemperer, whoms live was taken as the blueprint of a film, wrote himself a book, about the language of the Nazis: LTI – Notizbuch eines Philologen Lingua Tertii Imperii: Sprache des Dritten Reiches; there you should find many phrases, maybe as well in his diary, which is, as book, available as well. Sep 5, 2011 at 12:17
  • -1 for errors (it was Stasi-Boss Mielke who loved us all) and for mixing totally different things. You can use "lupenreiner Demokrat" for someone who appears to be a democrat, but of whom you have the opinion that he isn't. Likewise, "niemand hat die Absicht .." can be used in those cases where it is more than obvious that the hidden agenda is contrary to what was said.
    – Ingo
    Sep 8, 2011 at 9:00
  • Thanks, I corrected Mielke - what are other errors? And: I wrote you woulnd't use them without intend to express, that these phrases can be used - it depends on the context, and you have to be aware, which associations you evoke; irony included. Sep 8, 2011 at 11:08
  • user unknown: Well, you listed phrases that have more or different meaning than it may seem to someone who takes them literally, yet the question was about phrases you want to avoid.
    – Ingo
    Sep 8, 2011 at 11:19

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