Where does the word sneaker come from?

The sneaks at the foot of the sneaker minister

Who still says sneakers today? And where does the term sneaker actually come from?

Wouldn't that be something for your column? The colleague asks. The fact that Wolfgang Mückstein was referred to in the media as the sneaker minister - because the new health minister wore sporty sneakers when he was introduced. And gymnastics, so the colleague, nobody says today anymore. In fact, sneaker is still a general synonym for various types of sports shoes - but running, basketball, tennis or even soccer shoes no longer have much to do with gymnastics in the classic sense. Gymnastics as a comprehensive term for all types of physical exercise, as Friedrich Ludwig “gymnastics father” Jahn coined him at the beginning of the 19th century, is now more narrowly defined (especially in the sense of apparatus gymnastics). By the way, instead of “physical exercise”, as physical education was called in school until 2005, they now say “movement and sport”.

By the way, the term gymnastics was chosen by Jahn as an allegedly old German word, whose stem he imagined in Old High German "turnen" (move, turn, direct). In fact, however, it emerged from the Latin "tornare" (to round with a lathe, to turn). Errare humanum est. . . But back to the shoes: The sneaker is an Anglicism coined by the US advertising expert Henry Nelson McKinney in 1917. "Schleicher", so the translation, refers to the rubber sole, which, in contrast to the leather sole that was customary up until then, no longer had a loud appearance. In the USA, this developed into a collective term for sports shoes. In German, on the other hand, it is mainly used today for sporty-looking casual shoes. However, it has apparently not yet fully established itself. So you can continue to say sports shoe. Or, if you still know the phrase: Fit like a sneaker.

Emails to:[email protected]

("Die Presse", print edition, April 19, 2021)