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

    9 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 It has a slightly outdated touch to it in many contexts.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.


    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"

  • I wouldn't say it carries the "N-word" with it but it definitely has a military connotation to it. It is sometimes used ironically or tongue in cheek, like e.g.:

    Kid: "Ich will ein Eis!"
    Dad: "Jawohl! Kommt sofort." ;-)

    Great, that's the kind of use I was referring to. Could the dad say "Jawohl, mein Kommandant!"?

    Well, I would say that is a little bit too much... but it depends on the situation (and the daddy ;-)

    I have a friend, Scott Swift by name, who has a rather famous daughter named Taylor. Apparently the "kid" (Kind) gets what she wants.

    +1, was about to write something similar. I had "Jawohl, mein Dauphin" from Jeanne d'Arc in mind, which is also kind of military of course, but definitely not Nazi Germany :) I think that just *Jawohl* itself does not carry military connotation, it may just feel kind of archaic, and is not limited to joking use. However, for everything you could say, there will be *someone* to find it tasteless. By the way, NGrams shows usage peaks around 1920 and 1945.

    I think it has a connotation similar to "wilco" (U.S. military jargon for "I understand and will comply.") Not necessarily agreement ("yes"), but more an acknowledgement combined with recognition that the speaker's agreement is neither necessary nor relevant.

    I would perhaps compare it to something like "Sir, yes sir!"

    Actually *if* the dad said that ( "Jawohl, mein Kommandant!") it would carry criticism if the kid is old enough to understand and otherwise it would probably be used jokingly only. But not really with the connotation feared ...

    There is no "N-word" in German. Saying it like it is is a German trait. No need for abbreviations or pointless political correctness.

    Sorry for commenting on such an old answer, but I do not think that „Jawohl! Kommt sofort.“ has any military connotation, it seems more like something a waiter would have said not too long ago. (And maybe they still say that at restaurants that I do not visit.)

  • "Jawohl" in General

    Answering "Jawohl" in an everyday conversation with Otto Normalverbraucher would probably seem awkward, but not because of associations with Nazi Germany but because of its formal / militaristic connotations.

    Jawohl, mein Kommandant!

    "Jawohl, mein/Herr/Frau Kommandant" could be used in a joking way though there is no guarantee everyone would get the joke. It really depends on the person(s) you are talking to.

    Jawohl, mein Führer!

    Answering "Jawohl, mein Führer" would, with higher probability, be taken as irony or sarcasm by pretty much everyone because it is so obviously exaggerated. It works best in response to something you do not really want to do, as well as to a request which was made in a particularly harsh or otherwise unacceptable way. Which means there is probably a not exactly friendly atmosphere even before your remark.

    If this situation is between you and a person you generally get along with, this response might actually losen things up. Then again it might backfire on you, but that would have nothing to do with the obvious Nazi connotation, but with you being flippant.

    Jawohl, Herr Kaleun!

    With regards to what you seem to be contemplating, how to use "Jawohl" so people get that it's used in exaggeration, as a friendly joke, you might try answering "Jawohl Herr Kaleun" (Kaleun = Kapitänleutnant, equivalent to e.g. a US Navy Lieutenant). This would be an obvious reference to the movie "Das Boot" and with high probability be received in a friendly way by most German people between, I guess, 25 and 50.

    Though you should watch the movie or at least a suitable excerpt first, to get the intonation of that quote right. It's said in a rather sharp and snappy way, nearly shouted but not quite.

    How To Really Screw Up

    Oh and if you really wanted to get people mad, make references to the SA / SS, like in "Jawohl, Herr Obersturmbannführer". But never use that as a joke. Really. Never. Ever.

    +1 für die Mühe :)

    "Jawohl, Herr Obersturmbannführer" - This does also depend on the people you are with. If they are into black humor they might consider it funny and of even more an exaggeration than "Jawohl mein Führer". But i guess they must be at least the second generation after the Third Reich and in general I wouldn't use either around Germany as most people are still quite touchy on that topic.

    @Sim you are right, it depends. It pretty much boils down to 'know your audience'.

    I'd like to add "Jawohl, mein Hausmeister!", which is another reference to a famous German movie

    "Answering 'Jawohl, mein Führer' would, with higher probability, be taken as irony or sarcasm by pretty much everyone because it is so obviously exaggerated." is simply not true. This is an absolute no-go in any but the most private situations. Don't do it in public, don't do it at the workplace. My recommendation would be to not use it at all.

    'This would be an obvious reference to the movie "Das Boot" and with high probability be received in a friendly way by most German people between, I guess, 25 and 50.' I am well within that age range, and while I watched *Das Boot* a looong time ago, I would have no idea what *Kaleun* is supposed to mean. (In fact, it's the first time I learn a rank named *Kapitänleutnant* exists.) Don't count on being understood (especially that the connection to the movie is made) when saying "Jawohl, Herr Kaleun."

    Saying "Jawohl, Herr Obersturmbannführer" to your boss may result in getting fired with even higher probability than "Jawohl, mein Führer".

  • "Jawohl" is the more formal version of "Ja" used very commonly in the Bundeswehr without any connotation. It is also used as shorter version for "zu Befehl" (as you order / at your command) when accepting an order, which is rarely used nowadays.

    Some examples in military context can be found here. As Germany has had general conscription for quite a while, it can stil be found in civilian life.

    Fact update: Wehrpflicht is no more.

    I know, still you will find lots of people that "enjoyed" their service in the forces.

    @Raphael Germany is not the only German speaking country. Austria has recently voted to stick to conscription.

  • "Jawohl!" comes from a military context. It is the equivalent of "Yes, sir!".

    And it is likewise supposed to humble you into slavery!

  • I live in the south and I have never heard anyone say "Jawohl", except jokingly or to express uncommonly strong affirmation. It is more common in the north east, though (around Berlin).

    I would never say "Jawohl, mein Kommandant" to people I don't know well, it feels like a quote from an American movie with fake Nazis.

    This 2nd expression is from the American TV show link Hogan's Heroes. The character Sgt Schultz link would say it to his commander.

  • As an American who lived in Germany (because I come from an Air Force background, but actually attended a small, local German school) I can affirm that saying "jawohl" does not carry any Nazi associations whatsoever. The word is simply a strong affirmative statement, close to when you hear what a friend is saying and say "yeah!" quickly in agreement. It is frequently used by uniformed personnel, but it is certainly not limited to them whatsoever.

  • Jawohl is also used by the Polizei.

  • We used to speak German in the military back in the days. Now we speak our own Danish language, with some extra military/global words and expressions. To a superior we respond by saying: “Javel Hr. Sergent” which means “Jawohl mein Kommandant”.

    Jawohl is still used, in many of the European armys.

  • No more so than any other German words.

    There is a difference between "offensive" and "not politically correct." Anyone can choose to be offended by literally anything. Political correctness seeks to protect every individual from offense. (As long as they belong to an arbitrary group that falls under the umbrella of PC, since in PC not all individuals are equal.)

    Genuine offense lies in the intent of the speaker.

    I don't worry about PC. I can't be responsible for what every individual thinks. If you don't intend offense, and you understand that what you're saying isn't patently offensive (i.e. common sense) then go ahead and say it, and if someone chooses to be offended that's their right and their problem.

    This contains no information on the word in question.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM