Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wikipedia as bilingual dictionary: hazing

Today, I would like to focus on a word very common in English, but not in German: hazing.

Hazing is quite widespread in the US -- and, I gather, in the UK. It happens, of course, in fraternities and sororities at colleges in the US, but I was once hazed as a simple busboy (the people who clean up your table in restaurants -- one step below a waiter, i.e. about as low as you can get). As the newest busboy, I was thrown into the lake after work one day (it was a seafood restaurant on a reservoir in Jackson, Mississippi) by the other busboys, all of whom probably could not wait to go to college and get into some real hazing.

I had no idea how to say this in German, and frankly I had never heard of such things happening over here, so I looked it up in Wikipedia -- and voilà, the word is Bizutage, and the entire German Wikipedia entry is devoted to what happens in France and other countries. Germany has a lot of strange traditions that it shares with other related cultures -- such as dueling -- but apparently hazing is not one of them.

That's one thing I like about Germany.


  1. Hi Craig, I'm going through your old blog entries, can you tell?

    I recently read an article that was mostly about a guy who didn't get an Onion piece, and he claimed that part of it was that he was a German immigrant, and that Germans don't do satire. He claimed that he found it odd that there was a whole culture behind making people believe something and then saying, "we were joking, and look how dumb you are for believing us."

    Now, I actually object to that as a definition of satire, as I think that satire mostly speaks to those who are in on the joke, and it's real purpose is not cruelty but social change, but I find that interpretation an interesting cultural mirror, especially in light of this post.

    However, I wonder why something like hazing doesn't exist in a culture that we adopted the word "shadenfreude" from. (as you mention in another post) Unless Americans have changed the meaning, the two concepts would seem to go hand in hand. The main difference would be the requirement that hazing be part of an initiation rite.

    Just some thoughts on the matter.

  2. Well, at least someone is reading...

    I don't really see much of a connection between hazing and schadenfreude. The latter simply means that you are happy about someone else's misfortune, not that you all are in any way involved in it. And of course, the opposite argument can also be made: assuming that the feeling is human and not specific to Europe, Germans have the word because it actually bothered them.

  3. Wenn ich das richtig lese, gibt es schon ein Deutsches wort dafür, zumindest für das Ritual als solches: "Taufe" siehe "Equatortaufe".

    Allerdings ist es mehr so gedacht, dass es dann eine taufe gibt, wenn gemeinsamer zusammenhalt beschworen werden soll. Nach dem Motto: "wir haben das alle durchgemacht, wenn du das tust bist du eine/r von uns".