• Germany's news in English
 

Let's drop the Angst about Anglicisms

Published: 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'
Sudeten Germans practising traditional dance at a gathering in 2014. Photo: DPA

Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'

The Sudeten German Homeland Association has given up its claim to the group's former home in parts of the Czech Republic, quieting one of the final echoes of the Second World War. READ  

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan
Families Minister Manuela Schwesig. Photo: DPA

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan

Families Minister Manuela Schwesig confirmed on Sunday that she wants a new law allowing women to compare their wages with men doing similar work, provoking angry reactions from employers. READ  

Police wind down Bremen terror response
Heavily-armed police on patrol outside Bremen cathedral. Photo: DPA

Police wind down Bremen terror response

Police in Bremen said that the risk of a terrorist attack had been reduced in the city after they arrested two suspected arms dealers. The city remains under high alert, with special protection for the Jewish community. READ  

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone
Photo: DPA

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Sunday Greece's new hard-left government needs "a bit of time" but is committed to implementing necessary reforms to resolve its debt crisis. READ  

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo
Photo: DPA

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo

An estimated 375 people turned out for the Germany-based PEGIDA movement's first demonstration in Britain on Saturday, but were outnumbered by a 2,000-strong crowd of counter-protesters, police said. READ  

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote
Photo: DPA

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed Friday to "start working hard" to implement vital reforms in the stricken eurozone country, after Germany's parliament approved a four month extension to its bailout. READ  

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce
Photo: DPA

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared the killing of three government troops by pro Moscow rebels a "serious breach of the ceasefire", during a telephone call Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her office said. READ  

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps
Trouble at the top. Photo: DPA

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps

Germany's highest civil court ruled in favour of a man who swapped the carpet in his new apartment for parquet flooring, incurring the wrath of the retired couple who lived below him over his loud footsteps. READ  

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday
Photo: DPA

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday

Teachers all over the country are expected to stike starting Monday, German education trade union GEW said, after negotiations with the wage commission of the federal states (TdL) failed to achieve results. READ  

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes
Andre Shepherd at the European Court of Justice in June 2014. Photo: DPA

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes

American soldier Andre Shepherd, who applied for asylum in Germany as a conscientious objector against the war in Iraq after going AWOL from his unit, saw a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) go against him on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
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

3,199
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd