German Word of the Week: Karteileiche

Faithful reader(s), I will be a little bit hard to reach in the coming days and may not be able to give you the German Joys you so richly deserve on a regular basis.  I’ll be back in full swing late next week, I promise.  I am working on luring a guest blogger here, we’ll see if he takes me up on it.

In the meantime, I give you the new GWW, and what a doozy it is.  Literally translated, it means "file-room corpse."  We’re talking about an account or file stored in some kind of bureacratic system that long ago lost all relevance to any thing or object in the outside world.  I most recently heard the word in a discussion of long-term student tuition.  Here where I teach, the schools begin to charge students tuition after something like 5 or 6 years of study.  That may sound generous, but in a country where people routinely stay in college until their mid-30’s, it’s quite a rude shock to plenty a tenured student.

Perhaps that last sentence should read "stay" in "college," since lots of people maintain a strictly technical status as "student" merely in order to take advantage of student subsidies and discounts.  When presented with a bill for 600 Euro per desultorily-completed semester, many "students" suddenly decided they were ready to move on to the next glorious stage of their existence (that is, unemployment benefits).  As a university bureacrat fondly recounted: "The new tuition rules allowed us to get rid of a lot of Karteileichen." 

(note: special hat-tip to Oliver B. for this one)

One thought on “German Word of the Week: Karteileiche

  1. “In English you can, of course, spin a tissue or web of lies. But I think the idea of crafting a nice, solid, bricks-and-mortar building of lies is more apt. It conveys how hard it is to get out of one once you’ve built it.”

    The wrong picture has been used here. A “Lügengebäude” is a fragile building which will collapse by the slightest tremor –
    like a Kartenhaus. 🙂


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