• 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

Does German need protection from creeping Anglicization? The question was highlighted this week when the Duden dictionary was criticized for including too many English words. What a lot of cack, says Hannah Cleaver.

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
Ex-minister jailed over F1 race track scandal
Ingolf Deubel in court on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Ex-minister jailed over F1 race track scandal

A former state finance minister was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison on Wednesday, having been found guilty of embezzling money in the scandal around the failed sale of the Nürburgring Formula One race track. READ () »

Upper Bavaria boasts lowest EU unemployment
A Bavarian worker works hard Photo: DPA

Upper Bavaria boasts lowest EU unemployment

Southern and central Bavaria have the lowest unemployment in the EU, according to figures released on Tuesday, with one business leader boasting the area has “de facto full employment”. READ () »

Thousands of tax evaders come forward to declare
Uli Hoeneß was jailed last month for tax evasion. Photo: DPA

Thousands of tax evaders come forward to declare

The number of German tax evaders who have self-declared to avoid prosecution trebled in the first quarter of 2014, figures published on Wednesday showed, with the rise put down to the "Uli Hoeneß effect". READ () »

Petition fails to remove WWII Russian tanks
One of the WWII Russian tanks near the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA

Petition fails to remove WWII Russian tanks

The German government rejected on Wednesday a call by two newspapers to remove Russian tanks from a World War II memorial in central Berlin in protest against spiralling tensions in Ukraine. READ () »

Germany warns Ukraine talks must not fail
A Ukrainian policeman at a checkpoint in the eastern city of Kharkiv on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Germany warns Ukraine talks must not fail

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Wednesday that scheduled four-way talks on the Ukraine crisis must not fail, warning of "the threat of more dead and injured". READ () »

Olympic stadium could be giant polling station
Berlin's Olympic Stadium. Photo: DPA

Olympic stadium could be giant polling station

Berlin's Olympic stadium could become the world's biggest polling station if the Turkish community gets the go-ahead to vote there in Turkey’s general elections. READ () »

The Local List
Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German
Photo: DPA

Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German

From rolling wheels filled with burning hay down a hill, to waiting for a fox to bring eggs, The Local List this week looks at the nine best German Easter traditions. READ () »

Biology pupils find horse in kebab meat test
Horse? Photo: DPA

Biology pupils find horse in kebab meat test

Schoolchildren in western Germany came across horse meat while testing doner kebabs in a biology experiment. It comes a year after the horse meat scandal which showed much meat on sale in Europe had been mislabelled. READ () »

Private health insurance not worth it for workers
Photo: DPA

Private health insurance not worth it for workers

Thousands of employees paying into private health insurance in Germany get poor value for money, according to consumer experts - who recommend going private for just one group of workers. READ () »

'Free range' chicken farmer tricks customers
Free range? Photo: DPA

'Free range' chicken farmer tricks customers

UPDATE: A major producer of ethically certifified meat has admitted to defrauding thousands of customers for years by passing off conventional chicken as free range. But the brand said it took swift action to deal with the case. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
'The mafia has infiltrated every sector in Germany'
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
School kids hospitalized after 'porno' party
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The week in pictures: April 5th - April 11th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Munich's baby polar bears are finally named
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Advertisement:
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo:ESL
Sponsored Article
How to integrate successfully in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

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

3,115
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd