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“Zwangsbemüllung”. Oh, and phonebooks.

Photo: kandschwar

Somebody is still printing and delivering phone books (Article in German). 300 000 of them have been dropped all over Nürnberg, where they are now rotting (Facebook article in German), because nobody wants them.

German is a good language to make up compound nouns. The current one: »Zwangsbemüllung«

As compounds go, this one is pretty awesome:

Zwang = Force, Müll = Trash, bemüllen = a made-up verb from the noun Müll, where the prefix be- conveys a sense of ‘from above’ and a sense of passiveness. But -ung is a suffix that makes a verb a noun again, which makes the construct even more awesome.

Together, Zwangsbemüllung all in all it transports a sense of helplessness and suffering, while one has to endure trash which is being dropped on oneself. It’s a made-up thing that is not in the Duden, but it is perfectly clear what it means.

Also, only in Germany: Printed Phone Books are still a thing.

Published inAls Deutscher in den NiederlandenNeuland


  1. Man bekommt das unheimlich effizient abgestellt, wenn man den Kram direkt wieder in den nächsten Briefkasten kippt.

  2. Johannes

    The fun part: The underlying reason is that Deutsche Telekom, as largest telco, is required by law to produce them.
    Over here in Munich it seems to work okay-ish that they print a limited number which one has to get from some shop. The amount lying around there seems to be quite low compared to the number of people living around (I don’t have numbers, so maybe there are more in the storage!?) and last year there were at least two people I saw who grabbed a pair.

    But well, looking things up is just the world wide wait … (Adressbuch der Chemiker 2002)

  3. Woo

    Hier gibts nur noch Infokarten dass die neue Auflage beim Postamt ausliegt, und ich glaube die haben sogar n Feld fuer “[x] Bitte zuschicken” wenn man’s nicht selber holen kann/will..

  4. Armin

    No. Not a German thing. We still get them here in the UK as well (certainly the yellow pages). They sit in the entrance hall of my block of flats for a week until I take them to the recycling bin.

  5. Uwe

    there’s quite some space for ads in them and the livelihood of some publishers depends on it so I don’t see this dying soon as long as money can be made

  6. Christian R. Conrad

    If English compounded it’s words, you would have been “forcebelittered”, or perhaps “compulsorilybelittered”.

  7. Dirk

    Man kann das Telefonbuch aber auch bei jedem Verlag, der die druckt, ganz einfach abstellen. Hat hier im Haus wohl schon jeder gemacht, wir haben keines mehr bekommen (Nachbarn schon).

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