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"Smoking ban" chosen as Word of the Year

This is not a pipe-smoking area

(Keystone)

"Rauchverbot" (smoking ban) has been selected from over 2,500 suggestions as Word of the Year by a jury of journalists in German-speaking Switzerland.

"Our choice is an attempt to capture and reflect the year," jury-member Paul Schneeberger, a journalist at the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), told swissinfo.

Smoking – or lack of it – has been a hot topic in Switzerland this year. In March, voters in the southern canton of Ticino overwhelmingly approved a ban on smoking in public spaces and several other cantons are currently taking steps to prevent passive smoking. Swiss trains have been smoke-free since the end of 2005.

Most Swiss are in favour of smoke-free workplaces and would also welcome a smoking ban in restaurants and bars, but the hotel and restaurant lobby – not to mention the country's two million smokers – are not giving in lightly.

In addition, the jury said the word symbolised a paternalistic trend running through Swiss society.

Other words that have recently made the headlines include Minarettverbot (in September the Zurich cantonal parliament said it would look into banning the construction of minarets) and Kampfhundverbot (fighting dog ban – in January the government proposed banning pitbull terriers and tightening regulations on 13 other breeds following a fatal attack on a child. It later changed its mind).

Swiss media also witnessed the usual hand wringing about a Waffenverbot (ban on keeping weapons at home – Swiss men in the militia army must keep their guns at home), a Weihnachtsverbot (ban on Christmas to appease non-Christians) and a simple Handyverbot (ban on using mobile phones in certain places).

Kopftuchverbot (headscarf ban) didn't make it onto this year's list, despite Islamic integration being a much-discussed topic in Europe this year, but it did come fourth in 2004.

Controversy

One Islamic-related word that did make the jury's list of "important words" however was Karikaturenstreit (caricature controversy), which followed the publication of 12 satirical cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

The cartoons, which led to violent Muslim protests, were reprinted by several Swiss publications. Swiss commentators also weighed in heavily on the issues of religious freedom versus press freedom and freedom of expression.

Unword of the Year, which the jury awards for a term that is "crassly inappropriate", went to two words this year: "erweiterter Selbstmord" (extended suicide).

When in April the husband of former women's ski champion Corinne Rey-Bellet shot her and her brother with his army pistol before killing himself, the media and several experts used the expression.

"[The term] obscures and trivialises the concept of death," said the jury.

Zeitgeist

"We also want our choices to serve as a chronicle," said jury-member Daniel Quaderer.

In 2005 the Word of the Year was Aldisierung (Aldi-isation). Aldi, the German discount supermarket chain, opened its first stores in Switzerland in October.

The rapid response of Swiss large retailers to their "no frills" rival was to slash prices, increase own-brand product lines and focus on out-of-town malls.

But what for 2007? Global warming isn't going away – unlike Switzerland's glaciers – so there could be some weather-related terms, and unless the government can sort out its Wolf Project before the lambing season, expect to read about a few "Problemwölfe".

With federal elections in October the chances of a few political neologisms springing up must be good, otherwise they may come from the sporting arena: Swiss sailing syndicate Alinghi will be seeking to retain the America's Cup in Valencia.

Oh, and Federer will finally win the French Open, but what new words that creates is anyone's guess.

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

In brief

Word of the Year started in Germany in 1977, Austria in 1999 and German-speaking Switzerland in 2003. Swiss-Germans account for about two-thirds of the Swiss population.

It involves the public submitting words online which, for them, reflect the past year.

A jury of seven journalists from German-speaking Switzerland and Liechtenstein then chooses its Word of the Year and half a dozen other "important words".

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Key facts

Word of the Year:
Rauchverbot (smoking ban)

"Important words":
Migrationshintergrund (migration background – increasingly asked of immigrants or foreign-looking criminals)
Köbi (Köbi Kuhn, manager of the national football team, which reached the final 16 of the World Cup in June)
Pensionskassenverwalter (pension fund administrator – a pension fund scandal threw unwanted light on Swissfirst bank)
Plämpu (slang for something that hangs – how Swiss snowboarder Tanja Frieden referred to her Olympic gold medal)
Vize-Miss (beauty competition runner-up – a fuss arose when Miss Switzerland favourite Xenia Tchoumitcheva only came second. Was it because of her name?)
Karikaturenstreit (Mohammed caricature controversy)

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