Five of the Week #11

It’s time for another “Five of the Week”. So, let’s go right in medias res (yeah, some Latin still lingers in the darkest parts of my mind :-D).
As a tourist, or maybe even as someone who adores the English language, you have surely visited some German cities. It’s a nice country to visit after all and most of the people are nice, too. Anyways, enough of the covert advertising.

However, when you walk the streets of German cities you can see all signs of cultural influences. Or rather the attempts of trying to integrate a foreign language into our own culture (I say “our” because I am German, too). In order not to lose myself in the wide field of integrating different aspects of different cultures I will limit myself to the use of Angliscisms. Damn, now I sound as if I am writing a term paper. Whatever. Back to the topic.

The use of Anglicisms in Germany is quite common and widely accepted. Of course there are still people claiming that we’re kind of losing our language and they are not totally wrong. I have to go by bus a lot and so I can often overhear (voluntarily or not) conversations of not only teenagers but also adults that make me think: “Are they really talking German?”. Well, back to Anglicisms or the use of the English language in Germany in general.

Here’s “Five of the Week #11” dealing with “The misuse of the English language in Germany”.

1. The s-Genitive
In Germany you’ll come across many bars named after their owners. You have ‘Kathy’s Bar’ (which is the same in English) or ‘Manni’s Wirtshaus’ (Manni’s Inn). Well, those are just examples but they have one mistake in common, namely the ‘s. This does not exist in Germany. When using the genitive we say ‘Sandras Schwester’ (Sandra’s sister) or ‘Omas Wagen’ (Grandma’s car). However, you’ll find the English s-genetive more often than the German one which is quite strange.

2. The Difference in Meaning
We Germans tend to use English words for things which is nothing bad. However, in English these words have quite a different meaning. For example we say ‘public viewing’ and mean watching soccer in a public place in front of a big screen. In American English the same word means the laying out of a late person on the day of the funeral. So, while the German ‘public viewing’ is a quite funny event (except maybe if your team loses) the English ‘public viewing’ is quite the contrary.
Another example is the use of the word ‘handy’. In German this means ‘mobile phone’ while in English it means that something is practical. Ok, a mobile phone can be quite handy when it’s small and light but how can an English adjective become a German noun? Maybe because we Germans tend to nominalize things…I don’t know.

3. Plural? Wait – that’s Mickey Mouse’s Dog
What did we learn in school? The English don’t tend to complicate their language unnecessarily. At least we should’ve learned that. In Germany we have ‘Bad-Bäder’ (bath-baths), ‘Kuh-Kühe’ (cow-cows) or ‘Haus-Häuser’ (house-houses) where vowels turn into umlauts (does that word exist? :-)). We even have a plural form for sheep and information. The English, in most cases, just add an ‘s’ to the end of the word and, what magic, they have their plural forms.
So, people in Germany thought: “We can do that, too.” After all, we’ve words like ‘Auto’ (car) which is ‘Autos’ (cars) in its plural form. But we didn’t think about being careful. So, parties in Germany are announced as ‘Partys’ (the event, not the political parties) and mobile phones become ‘Handys’. Oh, and let’s not forget the birth of fewer or more ‘Babys’. If we use the respective English words, why not use the correct plural forms, too?

4. Mixing German and English Words
I don’t mean the use of Denglish. What I mean is that people like to take a German word and mix it with an English one. Well, ok, it’s kind of Denglish but not in my understanding. Let’s take for example the German ‘backen’ (to bake) and the English ‘shop’, put them together and you have a German ‘Backshop’. A ‘Backshop’ is one of those modern bakeries that offer self-service. However, to English ears this must sound like a shop hidden in a backstreet…or worse considering what the English word ‘back’ also means.

5. The Wrong Use of Denglish
Well, using English words in German sentences is totally trendy. Nothing wrong with that, but a) people should use them correctly and b) please do not pronounce them in a German way – otherwise the sentences will just sound terrible.
Yesterday, when riding the train, I heard two girls talking and using English words in their sentences. They were talking about a song and one of them said something about its chorus. However, they used the word ‘refrain’ saying something like: “Und im Refrain…” (“And in the refrain…”) pronouncing ‘refrain’ like ‘refreng’ (pronouncing the ‘r’ in a German way, too) which made the whole sentence sound so wrong.
When people are really annoyed by someone they say: “Boah, der Typ fuckt mich ab” (“Damn, this guy really pisses me off). However, the German ‘ab’ is pronounced similiar to the English ‘up’ and the “German” ‘fuckt’ (3rd Person Singular) sounds like the English ‘fucked’ so that an English speaking person could understand the phrase like this: “Damn, this guy fucked me up” which would create a whole new meaning.

I think there’s nothing wrong about using Anglicisms. However, we should pay attention in order to not make a gaffe.


2 responses to “Five of the Week #11

  1. I love this! I got a little sense of the German language which was very cool. My grandpa is full German and I’ve never heard him say anything in German. I’m not very good with languages. I’ve had quite a few years of Spanish and all I can do is say hello and count to ten. I now take Italian and I can do a lot more, but I am very far from fluent. A common mistake is mixing them up and then when I don’t know a word I just say it in English so I probably sound insane.
    As for the “Backshop” you can definitely take that the wrong way in America!


    • Thank you! Well, there are languages that are easier to learn and ‘use’ and some where learning and ‘using’ is harder. Maybe that’s the case with you and Spanish/Italian. However, only by regularly using a language you can really learn it (i.e. through reading and especially talking). I wish you all the best with learning Italian!
      If you wanna get more sense of the German language, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll help you as good as I can 🙂


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