Others have most adequately described the word Zwiebelwahrheit, from a linguistic-etymological point of view (even if they sometimes slide over the question of pronunciation a little too lightly). The usage has been clearly stated, bringing examples like "What a Zwiebelwahrheit, the WMD in Iraq" to mind. However, there is also the history of the word to be considered, to help users get a full grasp of the concept and its implications.

Word history

Unfortunately, the first instances of the uses of Zwiebelwahrheit can not be corroborated by extant written records. Nevertheless, it is reported that Charlemagne's son Pippin, while torturing a Basque tax official, said to his father: "Whenever a new fingernail is pulled, a new fragment of truth appears. It's like an onion, a veritable Zwiebelwahrheit". The concept briefly turned up again in Verona in the 15th century in an Italian version -- La Veritá della Cipolla (approx. pron. "lah vehreetaah dehlah cheepaullaah"). German and Austrian traders soon put the Veronans right and the original gained the upper hand.

The reappearance of Zwiebelwahrheit in modern times is interesting, as the word has quickly caught on and managed to circle the globe several times in mere days. Luckily, this time there are written records to back up the course of historical development. The first modern occurence of Zwiebelwahrheit can actually be traced back with the help of ascorbic's catbox archive:

Messages from Outside on Thu, 23rd Oct 2003

10:26	montecarlo   Zwiebelwahrheit ...
10:26	amnesiac     it makes you cry but is essential for chutney
10:27	skow         montecarlo that rocks zwiebelwahrheit++
10:28	montecarlo   A synonym for "official truth".
10:28	amnesiac     what's wrong with 'lies'?
10:29	skow         it's too short amnesiac
10:29	amnesiac     you post-modernists! *shakes fist*
10:30	montecarlo   Not layered as Zwibelwahrheit, layer upon layer

The next occurence of Zwiebelwahrheit is recorded in the same archive on Nov 04. It must also be pointed out that the fate of a word like Zwiebelwahrheit, an appliance like TV or an idea like water enema is seldom determined by the originator alone. The role of ardent promoters is of at least equal importance.


The word Zwiebelwahrheit has several pronunciations in the original German, depending on the dialect of the speaker - Bavarian, Plattdeutsch, Berlinerisch, Austrian, etc. But as it has now been incorporated into the English language as a loanword, the today accepted English pronunciation in most circles is "swee-bell-vaur-height". However, there are still diverging views among a minority of phonetic experts.

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