The most recent German writing reform, or "Rechtschreibreform", has been constantly debated since before its imposition by law in 1998. The main reason, besides the fact that few people enjoy change, is that the changes seem arbitrary. One change considered was the spelling of compound words as one or two words. The following list demostrates the nonsensical, seemingly random alterations:

  • dünnmachen is still dünnmachen
  • bereitmachen is still bereitmachen
  • lockermachen is still lockermachen
  • schönmachen is still schönmachen
  • gutmachen is still gutmachen
  • daranmachen is still daranmachen


  • breitmachen is now breit machen
  • darübermachen is now darüber machen
  • flüssigmachen is now flüssig machen
  • fertigmachen is now fertig machen
  • feinmachen is now fein machen
  • schlechtmachen is now schlecht machen

In this case, one set of verbs has a reflexive sense to them, while the other does not. At any rate, to a learner of German, that sense is difficult to detect. Also, Germans themselves still debate the changing of such compound verbs.

Another comical consideration by the German government for reform was that the Esszett (ß). The Esszett in German stands for 'ss' in a word. The reform laws changed the uniquely German Esszett to 'ss' in many words. Yes, you are permitted to laugh:

  • Imbißstand becomes Imbissstand
  • Delikateßsenf becomes Delikatesssenf
  • Freßsack becomes Fresssack

Even more laughably...

  • 'Schiff' ("ship") + 'Fahrt'("journey") = Schiffahrt is now Schifffahrt
  • 'Fluß' ("river") is now Fluss, so the good old 'Flußschiffahrt' is now Flussschifffahrt

The only consolation I've found for the atrocity of having two instances of triple letters in a single word is the possibility of clarity the reform opens up for pronunciation. Words like 'Fuß' and 'Fluss', formerly each written with Esszetts, had nothing to distinguish their pronunciations. The words have long and short vowels, respectively (the 'u' in 'Fuß' should be pronounced like the 'oo' in 'food', whereas the 'u' in 'Fluss' should be pronounced like the 'oo' in 'good'). With the alteration of 'Fluß' to 'Fluss', there now exists a difference between words of long and short vowels. The Esszett indicates the previous vowel as long, while a double 's' indicates the preceding vowel as short.

Overall, I find this pronunciation indicator quite a small consolation for such an absurd amount of added effort to an already overly technical language, beautiful nonetheless.