Opposition wirft Friedrich "Luftnummer" vor.

wirft ... vor is, I think, the verb vorwerfen, which means to accuse.

But I don't know what Luftnummer means. Is it a noun in this context? I'm asking this because on www.leo.de this word is only registered as a verb; this one: to turn out to be a flop.

  • 1
    a minor thing but vorwerfen would be "to accuse of"... vorwerfen is super-transitive with the deed being the direct object while accuse has the accused as direct object. That is quite a difference.
    – Emanuel
    Jul 13, 2013 at 23:07
  • I see. Good to know. Danke!
    – indoxica
    Jul 14, 2013 at 12:15
  • Nummer as in Luftnummer originally referred to a numbered act in a Nummernrevue (vaudeville revue). Presumably, a Luftnummer ('air act') was one that required only air rather than singers, dancers, comedians, animals etc.
    – user2183
    Sep 27, 2015 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


A Luftnummer may be a flop, but most likely it is something that turns out to be nothing but hot air. Some typical examples:

  • A new law that is supposed to prevent something bad, but entirely fails to do so, because it can easily be circumvented.
  • A promise that has never been intedended to be kept in the first place.
  • A venture that does nothing but draining money from its investors.
  • Something that is claimed to be a success but actually was a total failure.

Note that in the example you quoted, the quotation marks are actually wrong, since they imply that the opposition already used the term Luftnummer with quotes (vorwerfen already establishes that Luftnummer does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author, so there are no quotes needed for this purpose).

Also note that Leo does not give to turn out to be a flop as a translation for Luftnummer but for sich als Luftnummer erweisen, which is a verb.

  • I strongly disagree with your aside about the quotation marks; I even downvoted the whole answer for it. They are not at all wrong, and their presence or absence changes the information in the text. If the quotation marks are there, the author asserts that the opposition used the exact term Luftnummer. If they aren’t, it could be the author’s paraphrase of the opposition’s viewpoint; their representative might have said Friedrich macht doch nur viel Wirbel um nichts or similar.
    – chirlu
    Jul 14, 2013 at 6:44
  • Vorwerfen already states that this is reported speech and paraphrasing in such a situation would be bad journalism and could (in a slightly different situation) lead to accusations of slander. If, e.g., Luftnummer were replaced with Versagen or Betrug, would you still use quotes? And if yes, what would be your opinion on a journalist who paraphrases to Betrug in a corresponding situation (not using quotes)? By the way, there is an intensive discussion of this on Belles Lettres.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 14, 2013 at 8:46
  • OK. So how could this thing actually be translated into English? I'm still confused...
    – indoxica
    Jul 14, 2013 at 12:17
  • @indoxica: Opposition accuses Mr Friedrich of doing busy work, … of producing only hot air?
    – chirlu
    Jul 14, 2013 at 22:12
  • @Wrzlprmft: Vorwerfen gehört nicht zu den Meta-Wörtern wie sprechen von, bezeichnen als, nennen, sogenannt. Daß Zitate „nicht als Frag­mente in den eigenen Fließ­text mon­tiert“ werden sollten (hier bewußt mißachtet :)), mag ein guter Ratschlag sein, aber von weniger elegant zu falsch ist es noch ein arger Sprung.
    – chirlu
    Jul 14, 2013 at 22:22

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