Saturday, March 9, 2013

English-German word play: “umfairteilen” sounds like “umverteilen”

Word play to call for social justice
The adjective fair can take on various meanings in English, including the meaning of being honest, impartial and just—as in the phrase fair play. When used in German, fair has that meaning. The word fair sounds like the German prefix ver, giving rise to the word play of the trade-union banner above, where the verb umfairteilen is used instead of umverteilen. The meaning of the latter should become clear by comparing the meaning of the simple verb teilen with those of the composita that are derived by employing the prefixes ver and um:
  • teilen: divide
  • verteilen: distribute or share
  • umverteilen: redistribute
The verb umfairteilen has cleverly been constructed to ask for a fair redistribution of wealth. The text umfairteilen - Reichtum besteuern, displayed over the entrance of the Gewerkschaftshaus Bremen (trade union building in Bremen in northern Germany), calls for the redistribution of wealth via adjusted tax regulations. The noun Reichtum means riches or wealth and the verb besteuern means to tax.

Keywords: Wortspiel, word playSteuern, taxes; Politik, politics;  soziale Gerechtigkeit, social justice.

Detailed information on Germany's Umfairteilen activities and demands is given at

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