Word of the Week: Platzhirsch

Sep 7, 2012

Every Friday, Germany.info and The Week in Germany highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


A red deer buck in Germany's Black Forest. Enlarge image A red deer buck in Germany's Black Forest. (© picture-alliance/chromorange)

During the annual mating season, stags become territorial and even willing to engage in brutal jousting matches with their magnificent antlers to gain favor with female deer. A person who seeks to dominate a specific situation is thus sometimes referred to as a "Platzhirsch" (place deer).

Of course humans, by contrast, are not always engaging in such behavior to impress a potential mate. Usually applied to someone seeking to gain the upper hand and establish an "alpha" level of seniority and control over others, a "Platzhirsch" is someone who lays claim to the right to take charge, firmly entrenching themselves at the center and the apex of a specific organization or political process. Often this person - usually a guy seeking to gain the upper hand and defend an "alpha male" position - exhibits an overblown sense of entitlement to dominate a specific "territory," to emerge as the natural "top dog" or "leader of the pack" in a specific hierarchy.

At the same time, businesses, institutions or products - such as a mass-circulation newspaper that deeply influences public debate in a specific country - can be described as fulfilling a "Platzhirsch" role by ousting the competition and maintainting a leading market position, to the detriment of any and all competition.

This kind of "Platzhirsch" behavior - another German compound noun derived from the words "Platz" (a place, space, or town square) and "Hirsch" (stag) - is not uncommon in crowded European holiday resorts or busy urban hotspots where people-watching is elevated to an art form.

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