Article published on May 22, 2012
Article published on May 22, 2012
What do an elephant hunted by an outed Spanish king and a poem critical of Israel by a German nobel prizewinner have in common? The German internet world called them ‘shitstorms’ of current news situations, picking up on a stateside phrase whose usage doesn’t seem to have spread across the EU

It doesn’t seem to be the most constructive comment ever, but there it is in emails, internet forums and social networks across the German internet. This e-dirt campaign is not only slung at public figures, but also companies and political parties. The term ‘shitstorm’ seems to have originated in the United States. In slang English (though some sources scream ‘american’ and ‘canadian’), it best translates to the saying when the shit hits the fan.

The German media widely reported on king Carlos of Spain's April expedition to Botswana on an elephant hunt, at a critical time of austerity and unemployment of his subjects, as a shitstorm. The French politely branded it a media storm (temperierteren tempête médiatique). Upon waltzing out of hospital, which is how the world knew of the royal’s little pre-Olympics sporting accident, Charlie appeared humble at the legions who had thrown shit at him (tirar mierda encima de alguien, in Spanish slang), and even made a striking schoolboy apology. See? Just a storm in a teacup.

Read 'Portmanteau words: Denglisch in Europe' on

Mud slinging is the operative word for a German ‘shitstorm’ in other European countries: Poland often throw this substance to discredit their politicians (mieszać (zmieszać) kogoś z błotem), whilst the Italians have to fight the mud-slinging campaigns gloriously called macchina del fango (as used expertly by writer Roberto Saviano). Meanwhile, the linguistic phenomenon reached its peak in Munich when an ‘anti-shitstorm hotline’ ('Hotline gegen Shitstorms') was launched for the victims of web hounds. You can call between 8am and 8pm, for a starting price of 500 euros for a morsel of advice. However it was Germany's green party politician Volker Beck though who shone the best light out of the mud-slinging-shit-storming, with this gem of a British anthem:

Images: main © Henning Studte/; videos (cc) Sascha Lobo 2010 (cc) republica 2010; Lily Allen 'Fuck you' (cc) parlophone/ youtube