Does "Jawohl" carry Nazi connotations?

  • Would answering "Jawohl" to an order or request be associated with Nazi Germany?

    What about "Jawohl, mein Kommandant"? Can it be used (jokingly) without people finding it tasteless?

    @Debilski: No, but I heard of that incident in the other thread. Interesting article!

    Apart from answering Jawohl, you may also hear this word in other cases, like if your favourite football team scores a goal, you may also shout something like „Jawohl! Da is' er drin!“

    @FUZxxl: But then you probably have to say "Jawoll!", haven't you?

    Not to be confused with "Das sollte ich ja wohl machen."

    Edited to add "connotation" tag, no change to text of question.

    So what? Use "jawohl" sincerely. (..or jokingly...with a smile perhaps)

    Does »Hi!« carry Hiroshima connotations?

    Stop the over analyzing political correctness debating. If you want a strong affirmative yes then just use it.

  • Pekka

    Pekka Correct answer

    10 years ago

    "Jawohl" is a normal German word, used as a strong affirmative. It doesn't have a specifically Nazi background, but one of its main uses has always been in the military, including the Wehrmacht.

    Wiktionary says:

    drückt unbedingte Zustimmung aus (expresses unconditional agreement)

    Google NGram shows it has been in use during all times since 1800.

    I'd say that its use in daily conversation, however, has declined. It has a slightly outdated touch to it in many contexts. Still, this is a valid example:

    Wir werden sie finden, und zwar heute noch, jawohl!

    The Wiktionary link (below) and the Google Book links in the NGram have more examples of the word's use throughout the ages.

    In the military, as far as I know, it is the standard affirmative answer to a superior's command in the German military to this day — it made the transition from the Wehrmacht to today's Bundeswehr. Its closest English-language equivalent in that sense is "Aye!" or "Yessir!". It often gets colloquialized into "Jawoll".

    I think the idea of a Nazi connotation has a simple explanation: Most plays, novels, films, and stories that deal with the German military are set in the Third Reich. You will hear "Jawoll!" in every one of them at least once.

    Also, the phrase "Jawoll, mein Führer!" is still widely used in a sarcastic way, both in the English-speaking world and in Germany (and probably everywhere else around the globe).

    "Jawohl" is always considered more formal than the familiar "Ja", which is for friends and acquaintances.

    Related:

    I didn't do military service though - would somebody who did mind confirming that "Jawohl" is still in use in the Bundeswehr? What about Austria and Switzerland?

    See also this article (in German) about a supermarket manager who was fired when he said "Jawohl, mein Führer" to his boss. Although he won in court and had to be rehired, the court stated that this action could have been grounds for termination in other circumstances.

    You cannot ignore the peak around the early 1940ies in your NGram.

    @bitmask true, but that doesn't necessarily make "Jawohl" a decidedly Nazi term, does it?

    I wouldn't say it is. But the NGram actually indicates otherwise.

    @bitmask I don't think you can draw that conclusion. The peak coincides with a major war that dominated daily life - including literature, periodicals, movies et cetera. Plus, the Nazis were obviously driving a very military-friendly culture that would put even more emphasis to that trend. I would say that's where the peak comes from, and it doesn't make the word a Nazi word

    @Pekka, yes, it is still used in military service. To be clear: we *had* to use it! A normal "ja" would have ended in a lot of push-ups.

    It's interesting to compare the ngrams for uncapitalized "jawohl" (often a tag ending for emphasis, as in the example sentence above) and "Jawohl" (capitalized, expressing strong agreement). The former is fairly flat, with a mild peak around 1945, but the latter peaks very strongly around 1945 after growing steadily from the start of WWI, and has steadily declined since, giving a totally different picture of usage patterns.

    I guess *jawohl* is much more often used as an interjection or at least the first word in a sentence, at least the Google Ngram of capitalized *Jawohl* shows much greater frequency than lowercase *jawohl*.

    @TheodoreMurdock: I don't know if the corpus has changed a lot since your comment, but today the curves seem to basically have the same shape and trends, just rescaled.

    What about the rank in Bundeswehr? I never served, but to me "Jawohl, mein Hauptmann!" feels older than "Jawohl, Herr/Frau Hauptmann!"

    @Raphael I don't think the corpus has changed enough to invalidate my observation. While they always seem to move in the same direction, "jawohl" and "Jawohl" have very different slopes both during and after WW II..."jawohl" as of 1988 was down only about 26% from 1943, while "Jawohl" was down about 65%, and "Jawohl" is still declining faster than "jawohl".

    @Raphael You'd normally use either just "Jawohl", or "Jawohl, Herr/Frau [Rank]". I only served for a short time, due to conscription, but still I think if the "mein" form was in use I think I'd have heard it at least once.

    @Pekka웃 the Swiss army uses "Hier, verstanden!", and in civilian life, this is occasionally used to ironically comment on orders given in an excessively authoritarian tone.

    @micro that sounds much preferable to "jawohl"

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