• Germany's news in English

Let's drop the Angst about Anglicisms

The Local · 3 Sep 2013, 11:13

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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?

Story continues below…

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



The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Eurowings braces as cabin crew union proclaims strike
Photo: DPA

A union representing cabin crew for Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings announced that strikes could take place at any time over the next two weeks, starting on Monday.

Mysterious German U-boat wreckage found off Scotland
Photo: ScottishPower

First World War U-boat "attacked by sea monster” thought to be found off Scottish coast.

Supermarket Edeka warns of exploding apple juice bottles
Photo: DPA

"Risk of injury" from "Gut und Günstig" sparkling apple juice bottles has forced Germany's largest supermarket to recall the product.

By wheelchair from Syria to Germany: teen's story of hope
Nujeen Mustafa. Photo: HarperCollins-William Collins Publicity/Private

She tackled the gruelling 2,000-kilometre migrant trail in a wheelchair, translating along the way for other refugees using English she learned from a US soap opera. Now this teen is living in Germany and hoping to inspire others with a newly published memoir.

Berlin Zoo to have a pair of pandas by next summer
A recently born panda pair at Vienna Zoo. Photo: DPA

The giant bamboo-eating bears will move into a brand new 5,000 square-metre enclosure in the capital's Zoologischer Garten.

Two new spider species discovered in Munich
Zoropsis spinimana. Photo: rankingranqueen / Wikimedia Commons

It's news every arachnophobe in Munich is no doubt thrilled to hear: two types of spider new to the region have been discovered in the Bavarian capital - and one of them bites!

After woman's body found in barrel, husband may walk free
Franziska S., who went missing 24 years ago. Photo: Hanover police.

A woman disappeared in Hanover 24 years ago, but no one reported her missing. Although her husband has now confessed to her murder, he still may not step foot in jail.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd