Berlin - The city-state's public transport department will officially no longer use the term Schwarzfahren (riding without a valid ticket or, literally, riding black) because of the ongoing discussion about racist language - even though linguists say the word has nothing to do with race.

The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe, or BVG, is likely to continue to use the word internally as it's slang for its official cousin: "riding without a valid ticket", BVG spokesperson Petra Nelken said. However, it won't use the term in official communications or advertisements - and hasn't since probably 2017.  

BVG was moved to make a statement after the tabloid Bild erroneously reported that the department was ending use of the word after Berlin employees were forbidden from using last September. An earlier version of this story included the claims from Bild and its local edition, B.Z.

Riding poor, basically

The BVG, Nelken said, came to the conclusion on its own - it's also aware that the phrase has nothing to do with race. 

Eric Fuß, a linguist at Ruhr University in Bochum, told Munich's Abendzeitung that Schwarzfahren is borrowed from the Yiddish word shvarts, which in turn can be translated as "poverty".

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