Today’s word, Über, comes as a guest post from my online critique partner Ashlinn Craven. Ashlinn is an Irish woman, now living in Switzerland, who has just published her first novel “Maybe Baby”. Congratulations Ashlinn and over to you.
I’ve seen this trendy German-borrowed word pop up in recent years, mainly as a modifier to adjectives: uber excited, uber rich, uber connected, uber lame, but also as a prefix to nouns: ubercar, uberfic, ubervamp, the uberleft. The original German umlaut gets lobbed off for typographical convenience and the u is spoken the English way.
Über means above/over or via in German. Indeed, a German speaker might well use the “Denglish” super or total if translating English uber back into German (uber excited = super aufgeregt or total aufgeregt) .
You’d wonder why English with its uber-abundance of modifiers for nouns and adjectives (super, over, hyper, mega) has even adopted it? Wikipedia says the crossover goes back to Nietzsche who coined the term “Übermensch” in 1883 to describe the higher state to which he felt men might aspire. This notion of “super-man” found its way into nazi claptrap and then satirical literature, and maybe explains the word’s connotation of invincibility.
Others, me included, think it was the punk band the Dead Kennedys who truly popularised it with the brilliant song “California uber Alles“. It takes off the first stanza (no longer sung) of the German national anthem “Deutschland über Alles”. Although, in this example, über is used with original German diacritcs and prepositional meaning intact, and not the transformed meaning discussed above.
I’m uber confused.
Either way, it’s a handy little word with semantic flavours that a plain old “super” doesn’t quite embody—a kind of manic intensity, singularity, or over-the-topness. It hasn’t yet made it into many dictionaries, but I’m uber-confident it’ll get there in time.
So now we know how to go over the top, in English or German. Ashlinn’s novel “Maybe Baby”, a fast paced, witty, rom-com about what happens when an IVF egg donor falls for the sperm donor, launched yesterday and we’re the second stop on her blog tour.
Maybe Baby Cover
Uber-organized Polly Malone leaves nothing to chance. Running her web design company on a shoestring, she’s determined to make it a success. Her career plan doesn’t include a man or a family. When she’s approached by a stranger with an unusual request, she hasn’t the heart – or the bank balance – to refuse.
Sexy, wealthy, top London games entrepreneur Julian Ripley is battling for control of the company he built and picking up the pieces of his post-divorce life. But his sister makes a plea he can’t refuse.
When Polly and Julian meet in a dusty post office, feelings spark to life, but each harbors a secret – one that both binds and repels.
Caught between family and commitments, can their love survive or is it inconceivable?
If you’re on Goodreads check out the rave reviews. You can buy the book for your Kindle here (UK) or here (USA). I’ll be back, fooling with words, next Monday, Grace