There have been several recent posts that express appropriate information in a very biased way.

Example 1: Ich mache in...

Ich kann keine etymologische Herkunft aufzeigen, aber dieser Satz riecht für mich förmlich nach einer Neuerschaffung von genau den Leuten, die ihn auch benutzen; Vertreter, Aktienhaie und Börsenmakler.

The content is appropriate even if other posters would disagree, but "riecht förmlich" and "Aktienhaie" make this post a platform for the poster's dislike of salesmen and brokers.

da eine solche Formulierung oftmals mit einer verschleierischen Natur einhergeht.

Again, instead of neutrally describing the commercial sales context where dissimulation is indeed present, this is attributed to the "disssimulating nature" of the people in question.

Ein einfaches investieren war den Herren Kapitalbesitz wohl zu simpel,

Again, the formulation "Herren Kapitalbesitz" conveys no information except the disdain of the poster.

Note that the issue here is not that I disagree with the general message of the answer.

Example 2:

Wie spricht man von der deutschen Sprache?

Dativ anstelle des Genitivs benutzen nur Leute mit einer niedrigeren Bildung

This is a post that misinforms to transport the posters sympathies. In the question the genitive was not replaced by the dative but by a contruction with "vom", it is not even true that this kind of replacement is only used by people of low education, neither for "von"-constructions nor for dative-replacement.

A good answer would say something like never to use the "vom"-variant in written German and that the genitiv-variant also sounds better and more educated in spoken German.

There is quite a difference between identifying speech elements as education markers and use them indiscriminately on all speakers oneself. The first one is a sign of knowledge of language nuances, the second one is a sign of missing reflection on one's biases about markers that are in fact class markers and region markers.

Question: What should be the limit of conveying one's personal antipathies in this forum as evidenced by the opinion about fat cats or lower class people?

I repeat that this is not about the question whether it is true that "ich mache in" is a marker of stock brokers or not, it is about the choice of negative words and presenting markers as 100% reliable education predictors.

4 Answers 4


Indeed, a lot of native English speakers, who are not necessarily of low education, will use the von + Dativ construction very often, as it is similar in sound and in meaning to English constructions. I also object to this post, and to this sentiment. It does not bode well if we begin to sound needlessly elitist in the very beginning of our little SE.

To answer your question: I believe our policy should be that people are allowed to express their opinions while writing useful answers or questions, but if these opinions are not helpful (or even hurtful) then we should deal with that, on a case by case basis.

For example 2, on the matter of so-called indicators of lower education, it would probably suffice for someone to point out in comments that this is both A) not true and B) somewhat inappropriate.

I fear that a blanket policy on such things would be either too difficult to enforce and thus meaningless, or too simple and thus too restrictive (thus driving people away).

  • Well, ok, it would be enough to agree on these examples for now. My point is that the underlying information in the two examples is neither wrong nor useless. I totally *would * recommend to use the Genetiv construction because it is a better language level.
    – Phira
    Jun 1, 2011 at 10:54
  • @thei Yes, I would too. This is why we have to be careful. Jun 1, 2011 at 10:59
  • Well structured comments (that should be upvoted) and possible downvoting of bad answers sounds like a good plan to me. If it becomes a norm, that veterans are aware of this, and practice this, it should become obvious that it is looked down on.
    – BudgieInWA
    Jun 2, 2011 at 2:37
  • +1 case by case basis. Jun 8, 2011 at 18:20

I think comments are the appropriate tool for dealing with this, maybe also edits. Downvotes and/or moderation for bad cases.

I don't think we need a policy, the user base will decide what tone is appropriate.

As a user, I agree with you that the tone in those postings was not exemplary, but it wasn't that bad either.


I think usage of language is a lot about aesthetics, and therefore about education and oppinion. This makes the case harder then in the beginning.

First of all. My oppinion about your question:
There should be no place for antipathy at all.
IF you find it. Eliminate it. It won't help, in fact it can't help, just my 2 cents.

After stating what I'm feeling I'd like to work through the already known information: Jeff wrote an wonderful article about good and bad subjective questions followed up by real questions have real answers. If we share the point of view about language being a highly subjective and evolving topic. This should be one of our greatest guidelines for questions and answers. Comments such as in your example 2 won't help understand, won't help end and won't help learn. I made a very similar mistake in a concurrent answer (although not so prominent to see) and deleted immideatly after realizing what I wrote. See the rev history and comments for that :)

The last and maybe most important point of information is: How did others before us deal with this manner? I scanned the five earliest pages of http://english.stackexchange.com since they are working on language too. Guess what I found? No such question from August'10 to September'10 - two months of activity without a problem.

This is a clear sign that we should be as objective as possible, fund our answers with knowledge about the language in all three countries, per country and per local dialect. We should only add specific subjective information if we can back it up with a personal story valid enough and it needs to be constructive.

The rules for subjectivity are clear for every platform, quetsions and answers.

  1. inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
  2. tend to have long, not short, answers.
  3. have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
  4. invite sharing experiences over opinions.
  5. insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
  6. are more than just mindless social fun.

Nuff said.


IMHO, this really points to the heart of German online culture. Browsing German and English/International websites and forums, I started to dislike the "tone" of many German discussions. There is very often an impolite and prejudiced notion in them, exact as in the examples you posted.

While this might be ok in a local platform (even if I don't like it, I'll usually catch myself to quickly join in), I think as a global platform we have a responsibility to make everyone feel comfortable here. So I totally agree on your approach to set some limits here.

However, I also know that this is can be quite hard in German. In spoken language, you will express your opinion in a very direct way so there aren't many constructs to express an opinion politely. Still, we can try to be good. ;) And usually it already helps to use something like "auf mich wirkt das immer sehr wichtigtuerisch" statt "das benutzen nur Klugscheißer", etc. ^^

  • I disagree. The german language allows to be polite. It's a matter of will, whether you do it or not. Jun 8, 2011 at 18:23
  • Of course it does, but being polite is not such an integral part of German language/culture as it is in English. However, I also think that the heavy usage of "undertones" in German also leads to a lot of misunderstandings online. A whole-hearted, good-natured "Das ist doch totaler Blödsinn!" can be less hurting than a sarcastic "Sollten Sie darüber nicht nochmal nachdenken...?". (My comparison is England where I found everyday undertones quite neutral, so the message wouldn't be transformed as much.) However, written language doesn't carry this, so you have to be more careful of the content.
    – ladybug
    Jun 8, 2011 at 23:02
  • Well - the austrians and a lot of swiss people, who talk german too, are commonly described as more nice and friendly. Livin in Berlin, I'm sometimes a little shocked about the habits, here, but on the other side I appreciate the direct, clear style. I don't know much about the culure of different regions, speaking english. Jun 8, 2011 at 23:30
  • Yes, it differs from region to region, this is true. Generally, in the North, people tend to be more direct.
    – ladybug
    Jun 9, 2011 at 7:45

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