It’s totally logical – a football match is viewed in public. The individual words are 100% English, but the expression “Public Viewing” is a 100% German creation.

It all started before the 2006 football World Cup in Germany. The demand for tickets was so high that the organisers wanted to give the people the chance to watch the matches together and experience the unique atmosphere of the tournament. The idea was to show live matches on a big screen in every town, city and village in Germany – in beer gardens, schools, hospitals and companies.

They just needed a name for this. Because öffentliche Fernsehdarbietung im Freien (literally: public open-air showing) wasn’t quite catchy enough, someone suggested combining the English words public and viewing to make Public Viewing. English, made in Germany!

The initiative was a huge success, and the expression entered the Duden, possibly the German language’s most famous dictionary, in 2009. I’ve tried looking up Public Viewing in every English dictionary I can think of, but can’t find it anywhere.

Not yet, at least. The expression Public Viewing is already used in Japanese and, who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to find it in the Oxford English Dictionary, too. There’s still a bit of confusion. A public viewing of a house, for example, is a chance for many people to see it on the same day without making an appointment. I’ve even heard some people say that a public viewing of a corpse in a church is a chance for friends and family to say their last goodbye!

Until then, English speakers will probably continue to say: “I’m going to watch the match on a big screen,” instead. Just don’t be surprised if they have absolutely no idea what a Public Viewing is.

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