Obituary: Wolf Schneider: a likes to attack words dissector

The news of Wolf Schneider's death will affect hundreds of journalists personally.

Obituary: Wolf Schneider: a likes to attack words dissector

The news of Wolf Schneider's death will affect hundreds of journalists personally. Because they had him as a teacher. And those who had him as a teacher will never forget him. That was what this journalist was for ("Neue Zeitung", news agency AP, "SZ", stern, "Welt"), that's what this author of standard works on language was for ("Words make people", "German for professionals", "Our daily disinformation" ), this non-fiction author was for that ("Happiness, what is it?", "The Winners", "Big Losers", "The Man. A Career"), for this the head of Gruner Jahr's school of journalism was endowed with the kind of sustainability that is only inherent in very strict people.

Wolf Schneider, he liked to attack words, who did not accept any mercy towards late intelligence or dreamy professional views. Conversely, justice always came before mercy. The right to life of grammar, of precise formulation, of unambiguous thought. He defended it against sloppiness of all kinds as doggedly as if he were at war. And he was in the war too. He was at war with compromise all his life. With all the ill-considered formulas.

He wanted clarity. Perfect craftsmanship instead of a stammered conglomerate of ideas. German with substance instead of Anglicisms without. Journalism instead of marketing. Concreteness instead of "One would have to". Research instead of assertion. Pointy instead of smooth.

Wolf Schneider was the sharpest imaginable antithesis to even the slightest hint of the Waldorf school. And during the laudatory speech for his life's work, for which he was honored with the Nannen Prize in 2011, and again the year after by "Medium Magazin", the speaker was careful not to get too kitschy. Although Wolf Schneider was quite receptive to praise as long as it didn't sound like an Erich Fried poem.

Anyone who wants to praise and commemorate Wolf Schneider should do so briefly and harshly, avoiding superfluous and/or meaningless adjectives. There is the seller of hot sausages. Not, however, unless he belongs to an equally accepted sexual orientation, the warm sausage seller. Wolf Schneider used to astound year after year of journalism aspirants with such statements, which are now politically incorrect. And that it is wrong to speak of a parental home, it is the parental home.

But there were far more places where he acted as a legal guardian, before and after the journalism school, which he ran for 16 years. There were the legendary textbooks for those who didn't want to shoot their commas into manuscripts with a shotgun, there were the substantive teachings on human issues in book form. There were the enduring reports on turning points in world history.

And then there were the NDR talk shows with him as moderator, which he should have hated just because of their name: these speech shows, in which good German was rarely one of the primary virtues of those involved. There were all the teaching assignments at just about every – no: at every – notable training institute for journalists between Hamburg and almost Haiti. And then there were the ambitious attempts to banish the misconception from the management of various companies that the use of English terms from the marketing first-aid box gave platitudes a deeper meaning - for example, when a realization had become a learning, a poor protocol note a leave behind

How was he to experience this man? As a character made of granite, as a purist and fanatic of cleanliness, as a man of conviction, as a tireless teacher in mistrust of supposed certainties, as an enemy of the journalistic herd instinct, as a fighter against ill-considered scandals. As a porcupine in the Laberer Wadden Zoo.

And after all, almost a whole generation of journalists had this encounter. He has shaped. He sent hundreds of people with the best of intentions into the lowlands of actually existing journalism, so that they should resist the tendency there for as long as possible to reach for the impersonal one and bad weather out of sheer convenience, when there is actually a concrete perpetrator behind each one could be identified, and bad weather is the verbal Hartz-4 version of freezing cold continuous rain with thunder and lightning.

Flatulent words and flat German, brightly colored girlie vocabulary and sociologist slang, superlative delirium and linguistic dumplings, speech flowers and forms of suffering, castles saluting from mountains and orange revolutions, taking place and carrying out, the picture book forest, the fairytale village, the dream beach - they all had how the scowling monuments, the last room with a view and the next object of desire deserve a Guantanamo experience in Wolf Schneider's eyes. Yes, rightly so. Because it was and is these cliché fragments and formulations that increase the despair on the slave ship of the editors year after year. And the call for Wolf Schneider will never fade away.

Because even if he has been given the attribute of "language pope" - he was not only interested in craftsmanship, he demanded distance and skepticism from the journalists. He demanded knowledge from them. General knowledge. So he recommended to someone who claimed that it was now as easy to get it from Wikipedia as it is to crack a peanut, instead to strive for the very valuable career of a peanut farmer. And someone who thought that one could obtain knowledge very quickly these days at the push of a button, he decided that it would be even faster to have the knowledge in one's head.

Because: One has to make an effort, was Wolf Schneider's credo, the journalist or the reader. His suggestion: it should be the journalist.

Wolf Schneider stood for a tremendous effort. Of course he put others under pressure. But probably always himself first. He had a certain chutzpah about it, the collateral gain of the efficient, so to speak. It was a test for everyone who met it: those who endured it became stronger. And anyone who had become strong enough, also through him, could enjoy this feeling of liking this actually unapproachable man. Was he a conservative, about to fall out of step with all his secondary virtues such as diligence, attentiveness, order, behavior? Maybe, but that's exactly what made him so valuable.

At the age of almost 88, Wolf Schneider finally decided to take a kind of early retirement. However, with a book contract for a work of many hundreds of pages, which then became "Hottentottenstottertrottel", a review of his "long, strange life". But if someone mentioned the word rest in its context, a small shadow flitted across his face. Quiet? For Wolf Schneider, that was a stupid derivation of relaxation.

Relax? Didn't like it at all. His word remained until the end: excitement.

And we remember this exciting person with respect and gratitude. There won't be anyone like him again.

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