• Germany edition
 

Let's drop the Angst about Anglicisms

Published: 03 Sep 2013 11:13 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Sep 2013 11:13 GMT+02:00

When authoritarian governments jail comedians who make jokes about their leaders, the best puncture for their sense of self importance is to point out that if a regime cannot cope with a joke at its expense, it is surely not strong enough to govern a country.

It's the same with language - one which is not strong enough to absorb foreign words, ideas and phrases is not worth saving. The point is that languages do this all the time, and become richer and more useful for it.

Half of English is practically German, while the other half is pretty much Latin, after all.

Shitstorm over shitstorm

The Duden dictionary was slammed this week for including words such as shitstorm in its latest editions. Yet shitstorm in German has a more precise meaning than it does in English - specifically meaning heaping vitriol on someone via new media rather than a more general chaotic situation.

And so a new word is born - something which could even cross over to global English. It would be fantastich if other German Anglicisms were also to take the little hop necessary to enrich us all. Why can't we adopt Handy for mobile phone? It'd be so, well, handy. Let's not have an Angstfest about it.

Where a foreign word hits the nail on the head better than a domestic one, let's take it and incorporate it into our language, be it German, English, French or whatever.

Why should the English struggle to make up something to replace Schadenfreude when the German works just brilliantly? And likewise, why bother strain Teutonic brains to come up with an alternative to InterCityExpress for their super-schnell trains?

Squash confusion like a slug

What does need squashing - and I mean like a slug on a broccoli plant - is the gratuitous and stupid use of English in Germany where it doesn't aid understanding.

English isn't cool, it's just a collection of confusingly spelled words governed by inconsistent grammar. It in itself will not lend your company that whiff of sophistication you're looking for. Advertising agencies I am looking at you.

So it is stupid for Deutsche Bahn to talk about information counters, leaving Germans either concerned about whether they're going to be totting up the train times they get there - or worse, just confused by language in their own country. There is a perfectly good German word - Schalter for counter, while Service Points are now far better labelled DB Informationen.

My all-time favourite confusing Anglicism which has happily been dropped was for Douglas, that purveyor of perfumes, which for a while advertised with the slogan, "Come in and find out". It makes no sense in English, while one poll suggested some Germans were concerned they might never make they way out of the shops if they were to enter. I would love to use the word Fremdschämen to describe my feelings about it - because there isn't a word for "feeling embarrassed on behalf of another" in English.

Languages do not need protecting - let's swap words as and when it makes sense. Let us save our righteous shitstorms for the occasions when language is misused or abused to the detriment of clarity.

Everyone benefits from a sensible, clear, use of language - the point is, after all, to communicate, no? Use whatever word is most apt, and voilà! more understanding rather than less.

What do you think? Does the German language need protection from creeping Anglicism? What are your favourite swapped words? Which ones would benefit German or English?

Have your say in our comment section below

Registered users of The Local may add their comments in the field below. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here – it’s free and only takes a moment.

Hannah Cleaver

hannah.cleaver@thelocal.com

twitter.com/hannahcleaver2

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?
A Russian tank at a military parade in Moscow in May. Photo: DPA

Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?

A foreign policy expert in Chancellor Angela Merkel's own party said on Thursday Russia was fighting a "war" in Ukraine. Despite dozens of phone calls to President Vladimir Putin, Merkel's policy of restraint seems to have completely failed. READ  

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos
Passengers look at messages about the damage this morning at Ostkreuz. Photo: DPA

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos

Travellers in southeast Berlin can expect disruption on the S-Bahn until Sunday morning after an arson attack damaged a cable duct on Thursday morning, affecting services on six lines. READ  

Germanwings' pilots will strike on Friday
Photo: DPA

Germanwings' pilots will strike on Friday

UPDATE: Pilots at Lufthansa's budget airline Germanwings are set to strike on Friday, after talks between management and a union broke down on Thursday. READ  

Germany posts weaker job figures
Photo: DPA

Germany posts weaker job figures

Unemployment in Germany remained steady in August, official data showed on Thursday, as clouds continue to build over Europe's biggest economy and the eurozone as a whole. READ  

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire
The facade of the Mevlana mosque was badly damaged by smoke from the fire. Photo: DPA

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire

UPDATE: Investigators now believe a fire which damaged a mosque in Berlin earlier in August was started deliberately. READ  

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa
The Haus am Bogensee. Photo: DPA

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa

After two failed attempts, Berlin is trying again to sell the sprawling estate and villa once known as Joseph Goebbels' illicit love nest, but so far, nobody's buying. READ  

Greens boss films ice challenge with cannabis
Cem Özdemir empties a bucket of water over his head next to a cannabis plant. Photo: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen

Greens boss films ice challenge with cannabis

What looked like just another ALS ice bucket challenge video has become a political statement after the leader of Germany's Green Party Cem Özdemir confirmed he filmed his clip next to a cannabis plant. READ  

What's next for East Berlin?
Photo: Gehry Partners LLP/Timo Hermann - bbz landschaftsarchitekten/DPA/Living Bauhaus/DPA

What's next for East Berlin?

In the second of a two-part series on Berlin’s future, The Local looks at the major developments in former East Berlin. From palaces to bridges, what’s next for the East? READ  

Germany sends six soldiers to Iraq
A transport plane which carried German aid in Erbil. Photo: DPA

Germany sends six soldiers to Iraq

Germany has sent six soldiers to northern Iraq to coordinate deliveries of aid and military equipment to Kurds fighting Islamist terror group Isis. READ  

Berlin's most expensive flat sells for €5.7 million
Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most luxurious addresses in the city. Photo: DPA

Berlin's most expensive flat sells for €5.7 million

A Berlin property firm has set a city-wide record for the most expensive apartment sold, closing a deal for €5.7 million on a centrally-located penthouse. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,692
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd