August 07, 2003
Another Odd German Name

In one of a series of fascinating posts (scroll down to 'More on Baader-Meinhof'), Oliver Kamm mentions that one of the terrorists who hijacked a planeload of hostages in Entebbe in 1976 turned out to be a "well-known and much-admired" German leftist named Wilfried Boese. That's the perfect name for a terrorist, since 'Boese' means 'evil' or 'wicked' in German -- more than just 'bad' --, as in Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Böse or Beyond Good and Evil. At least, I think we can assume that's what it means: 'oe' and 'ö' are pretty much interchangeable in German names, as are 'ae' and 'ä' and 'ue' and 'ü': the umlaut (double dot) was originally a tiny e written above the other vowel. Müller and Mueller are certainly different forms of the same name, as are Fraenkel and Fränkel, and the same is likely to be true of 'Boese' and 'Böse'. If I'm right, Herr Boese's name makes him sound like a less educated German equivalent of Dr. Evil. Can any native speaker confirm whether his name would sound significant to a German?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 07, 2003 01:27 AM

Hey Doc,

This site might give an alternative meaning to Ahhnahld's moniker--not Schwartze Negger, but Schwartzen Egger, i.e. black plowman.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby on August 7, 2003 11:23 AM

DOH! Obviously, this was meant for the post below--my apologies!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby on August 7, 2003 11:25 AM

Just a daughter of two native speakers...but böse never had an exclusively "evil" connotation in our home. It usually meant angry. But since I can't recall my parents having many conversations about evil, who knows (reference initial comment about being just a daughter). Of course, German language has many "dialects" (I find them dissimilar beyond being dialects, but that's me). It could have a pejorative meaning in a different region than that of my parents.

Good luck.

Posted by: Tanja Morgan on August 8, 2003 12:00 PM

I speak decently fluent (if non-native) German, and I can assure you that you are correct Herr Doktor Weevil: "böse" and "boese" are indeed the same word. It's just that in German there are different ways of spelling it. In bureaucratic or 'officialese' German, umlauts (those little dots over a vowel) are almost always spelled out. Hence, "ö" becomes "oe", "ü" becomes "ue" and so on.

My handy copy of Langenscheidt's German-English Dictionary (New York: Pocket Books, 1970) defines "bose" thusly:

Böse 1. adj. bad, evil, wicked; malevolent, spiteful [...]

Posted by: Bill Connelly on August 8, 2003 01:30 PM

While we're on the subject of silly names, if I remember correctly one of the Baader-Meinhof gang's sympathizers was a lawyer called Klaus Croissant (sic). The opposite legal team had him for breakfast.

Posted by: C.Bloggerfeller on August 9, 2003 04:29 AM

I would like to know the value of Umlauts in term of legal documents, If some German person like 'Günther', who has this name in his ausweis and passport, If he is getting a legal documents from UK, and in these legal documents his name is 'Gunther'.

My Question is , are those documents are acceptable by German Government and Offices. ??

Can someone help me with this??
I will be grateful

any info or website link


Posted by: Oliver on July 28, 2004 08:44 AM