Who was the first to use the word gradation?

Some people think of the term "friend" very loosely, for others there are only "acquaintances" at first: Lutz Kuntzsch from the Society for German Language took a closer look.

DOMRADIO.DE: You also deal with the stories of words - what does that of the "friend" look like, from what did the word develop?

Lutz Kuntzsch: The "friend" has a very interesting word story. The word is derived from the Middle High German "Vriunt", i.e. with V. You can already hear the similarity, we don't know whether it was pronounced the same way. The word is even used in Old High German, a few centuries earlier, actually in the meaning of "the lover", which will surprise one or the other.

So it also has to do with how close I let them get to me and what exactly I mean by that. In addition, a look in the dictionary shows that there is an even older Gothic form - namely "Vrion" in the meaning of "love". And if it is not so easy for us to classify the "loved ones": In fact, what was meant was someone who was popular, loved and wanted in a community. He belonged to this group and it has survived to this day.

DOMRADIO.DE: Is that still the correct meaning of "friend" today or has something changed?

Kuntzsch: If we look for "friend" in the dictionary - analogue or digital - we find the following meanings: First, a male person who lives in friendship with others. Even today it can mean the coexistence of women and men and all variants. We can then specify this with an addition, for example when we say "May I introduce - my friend" or "May I introduce a friend of mine".

If I just say, "This is my boyfriend", it doesn't automatically mean how close the relationship really is. But I don't want to go unmentioned that Freund is also used in contexts such as "a friend of good music" or in the sense of sponsor "the friends of the theater". In addition, a "friend" can be a like-minded person - "a friend of this political direction". Or a "comrade" - and there we are already with the other terms. Or the "friend" is meant like a friend, where the meaning is then softened - as for example in "How's your old friend?"

DOMRADIO.DE: You have already indicated that - there are a number of meaning-like words that are grouped around the friend. Let's mark out the differences. What's in the known?

Kuntzsch: I always imagine it in circles. The "acquaintance" is relatively easy to understand because that is of course the one you know from somewhere. The circle of "acquaintances" is the large circle. We have many "acquaintances", comrades from earlier times perhaps or from sports; "Friends", on the other hand, are rather few, I am quite picky myself, others are not.

Every "friend" is of course also an "acquaintance", after all the relationship has somehow built up. Conversely, not every “acquaintance” is by far a “friend”. That can also change if we had a "friend" who disappointed us and who is then just an "acquaintance". That's what happens now too.

DOMRADIO.DE: Then there are, for example, the "comrade" and the "buddy". What do you think about this?

Kuntzsch: A "buddy" suggests a casual relationship. That's why we just say: "Oh, that's a good buddy"; that is casual and on the level of comrade. I looked up the "comrade": it actually refers to someone who was in the room with me, that is, who spent time together in a room or room; We use "comrade" in areas such as sports or the army.

We also say the "school mate"; We very specifically sat with him in a chamber, namely in the classroom. The gradations are therefore: in the large circle "acquaintances", then in the middle circle "comrades" and "friends" in a very narrow circle.

DOMRADIO.DE: In addition, we must not pass over a new word created in the past few years without comment - the Facebook friend ... After what you have just explained, we should actually speak of "Facebook friends", right?

Kuntzsch: Yes, or from "Facebook comrades". Language is developing. With the "Facebook friends" everyone knows that they are not real "friends". So why don't we say "Facebook mate" or "Facebook buddy"? That would certainly be appropriate in many cases, but it is simply far too long. "Facebook friend" is shorter and an alliteration with the two Fs, which then prevails. We have to live with that. The "Facebook friend" is not yet in the dictionary, but at some point he will appear as a kind of acquaintance

The interview was conducted by Heike Sicconi.