The German Term [Begriff]
Giving names to phenomena is the key and language to our human understanding of our life and place in nature. Technical and scientific developments need to be named. When new names appear they first serve as a temporary equation to an idea which is still vague and not clearly defined peripherally. But soon they materialize and initiate dramatic social changes such as the invention of internet and the mobile, German (Handy) not to be confused with English (handy) meaning practical.
The phenomenon of naming is best summarized in the German term [Begriff] which encapsulates and captures the meaning or a concept of a word. Although it might be a bit ambiguous and often misused but it certainly reflects exactly what a word should do. This is coined with the help of the prefix [be], a very productive prefix in German and the verb (greifen) related to English (grip) but a bit more aggressive in its nature for ideas are not that grippy to be captured in a word. Amazingly this natural, primitive and powerful verb can coin new verbs such as (begreifen: unnderstand) or (ergreifen: take) and even more aggressively in (angreifen and vergreifen) attack. Of course the English all-round verb “get” might have a similar meaning but it lacks the force and beauty of the German metaphor of gripping.
Still, German is in danger if its terminology cannot catch and keep up with the new developments in science and technology, which as we know, have deep social implications. More and more people can only scientifically communicate in English. I wonder what will become of German if it is scientifically ousted and, like the rest of the languages in the world, is reduced to the language of everyday needs only. Philosophy a traditional German intellectual exercise will then move from the German Gymnasium (grammar school) to an English gymnasium.
Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim
Bremen – Germany