Word of the Week: Hoffnungsträger
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.
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A "Hoffnungsträger" is a person on whom you pin your hope, literally as if you took your hope (= "Hoffnung") and gave it to this person to carry (= "tragen"). Bright young people are Hoffnungsträger, or promising prospects, such as the students in the Think Transatlantic National Finals. Sometimes it can also denote an object or matter that is a ray of hope to many, like renewable energy can be a Hoffnungsträger for energy independence.
This metaphor shows nicely that in the German expression you put your hope and faith into somebody or something as a targeted projection, whereas English tends to treat this person as origin, the source or beacon of hope.
"Hoffnung" is the noun derived from the verb "hoffen" = "to hope", one of those many words where the common origins of English and German are obvious. A "Träger" is a "carrier", derived from the verb "tragen" = "to carry". If you want the object to carry airplanes, you get a "Flugzeugträger" = "aircraft carrier" with the early 20th century neology "Flugzeug", literally a "trinket to fly", or airplane.
Hope plays a central role in our lives. On the bright side we have "hoffnungsfroh" and "hoffnungsvoll" – being optimistic and full of hope – when you see at least a "Hoffnungsschimmer" (a glimmer of hope), but this may turn into "hoffungslos" (hopeless) and its gloomy noun "Hoffnungslosigkeit" (hopelessness), if all goes bad. But when you think that a situation is "ausweglos" (without a way out), there will be another Hoffnungsträger to lead the way to the "Licht am Ende des Tunnels" (light at the end of the tunnel, you guessed that fully right).