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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

‘Denglisch is for losers, it has to stop’

Professor Walter Krämer, founder of the German Language Society, tells The Local why the Anglicization of German must stop and why Denglisch is for losers.

'Denglisch is for losers, it has to stop'
Photo: DPA

For years the German language has been overwhelmed with a flood of unnecessary and ugly English words and expressions – an advert for yoghurt talks about getting that weekend feeling a television channel runs a Kiddie Contest.

Us Germans do power walking wear outdoor jackets and beach wear, while putting on anti-ageing cream and style our hair.

Deutsche Bahn is perhaps the worst of all offenders with its tickets, service point and McClean.

Some people find it cool but others – the majority of Germans – are annoyed about the superfluous use of English junk and see it as showing contempt for their language.

It is absurd and undignified to replace German words such as Leibwächter, Karte and Fahrrad with bodyguard, card and bike.

This Anglicization of the German language has been accompanied with the global expansion of the American way of life, behind which stands the economic and political power of the USA.

It has changed many countries and their languages and Germany is no different. A lack of loyalty to their language on behalf of some Germans and a readiness to pander to English have, more than anywhere else, led to a mixing of the languages – Denglisch.

We want to counter the Anglicization of German and remind people about the beauty and value of their mother tongue. We want to protect and develop our language. The ability to invent new words and to describe new objects should not stop.

Our society, which has 35,000 members, is not against foreign words being used in German – even English ones. We have no objection to using fair, interview, trainer, doping and slang.

We do not hate foreign words. Most of our board members speak foreign languages and two of our members probably speak better English than any American. One was a pilot for a US airline.

We have nothing anything against German importing words from other languages. A third of all German words are imported.

What we do have a problem with is this attempt to use Denglisch to impress others. People intentionally avoid German words even though they could use it. It is an attempt to suck up to others. That annoys us.

We have a problem with words such as event, highlight, shooting star, outfit which are used to glorify the everyday and the banal. This drivel shuts off many Germans, who do not know these English words, from their own language.

I am often asked for a statement on a certain subject. I tell those who ask that I do not give statements. If they asked me using a German word it would be a different matter. I will give an Aussage.

There is almost always a suitable German word which works and fits with what people want to say.

Take the word highlight. I once counted 30 ways to say highlight in German yet they have all been replaced with one English word.

To counter Denglisch we write to firms guilty of using it, pick a “winner” each year for our language adulterator award and celebrate our annual German Language Day.

Germans who can’t speak English use Denglisch to prance about and say look, I can speak English too. This has to stop. 

Professor Walter Krämer is the founder of the Verein Deutsche Sprache and teaches at the Technical University in Dortmund. 

READ MORE: Let's drop the Angst about Anglicisms

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

How (and when) to swear like a German

We are certainly not advocating the use of these words, but they are important to know (in case anyone uses them against you). Here are some of the German words you certainly shouldn’t use with elderly in-laws.

How (and when) to swear like a German
"Are you talking to me?" Photo: DPA

Geil

We’ll start with a word so common you’ve probably even heard some embarrassing politicians use it as they try to get down wid da kids

Geil is used to mean “cool” or “wow”. To show extreme approval, you can draw it out and say guy-el. The word literally means “horny”. It is often used in the following phrase “ej, du geile Sau”, which is a pretty crude way of telling someone you find them attractive (hey, you horny pig).

Our advice: be careful with this word! As common as “geil” is in everyday slang, it could still cause your conservative father-in-law to choke on his Lebkuchen during Christmas dinner.

READ ALSO: Nerdy flowers to alcoholic birds: the 12 most colourful German insults

Kruzifix!

This one is a shout out to all the old Bavarian men out there. “Kruzifix!” or “Sakrament!” is something you shout out in pain in the southern state if you’ve stubbed a toe or accidentally hit your finger with a hammer.

Our rule: don’t scream this word out in the presence of a priest. Avoid using on Sundays.

Mist

Here is a classic German joke for you: An American tourist driving through the German countryside is lost. He pulls up at a farm and shouts to the nearest farm hand “Hey Mister, I need some help.” The puzzled farmhand replies “Ich bin nicht der Mister, ich bin der Melker.”

The joke being – a Mekler is someone who milks the cows. A Mister would theoretically be someone he cleans out the Mist, the manure.

The word Mist, which you mutter when something has gone wrong, literally dung, is even an acceptable word for children to use and is equivalent to “flip or “darn it” in English.

Our advice: one to avoid if you’re trying to impress teenagers, otherwise safe.

Leck mich!

This is an abbreviated version of a sentence that is just a bit too rude to appear in a news publication of our standing.

It means “lick me.” Let’s put it this way, it’s not a sexy invitation to someone to lick chocolate from your chest. It refers instead to a less appetising brown substance and essentially means “f*** off!”

We don’t know what Baden-Württemberg’s former culture minister, Gabriele Warminski-Leitheußer, was saying here… but we’re pretty sure we know what she means. Photo: DPA

Schattenparker!

This word belongs to the fantastic German tradition of making up insults to throw at people based on perceived cowardly behaviour.

A Schattenparker is literally someone who parks in a shadow. Sensible behaviour, one might think. Not to the hardy German though – parking in shadow proves you can’t take the heat.

Famed members of this very manly collection are Warmduscher (warm showerer) and Frauenversteher (woman understander) – even if these should not exactly be insults. You can make up just about anything to add to the list, as this website proves.

Our advice: throw in a few original ones at Christmas dinner and German relatives will be cooing at the progress you’re making in German.

Vollpfosten

This word is the equivalent to the English expression “as thick as two planks.” You use it to insult someone’s intelligence “Ej, du Vollpfosten”, which means “hey, thicko”, or literally “you big pole”.

Our advice: One to keep in your arsenal if a driver cuts you off on your cycle to work and then fails to apologise.

“Ey, du Vollpfosten!” Photo: DPA

Scheiße

We all know the German word for shit, but one of its most appealing qualities is the fact that you can stick it to the front of just about any noun to indicate disapproval. “Der Scheißkerl” means “that arsehole”, but you can add it to anything, really. Scheißwetter, Scheißaufgabe, Scheißauto… the possibilities are endless.

Our advice: have fun with this one.

Arschkalt

A seasonally relevant one to end things. Literally “arse cold” – we’re not really sure why – but it’s a good way to hate on the long, grey German winter.

Our advice: will go down well with a Berliner if you want to show you’ve got a bit of Schnauze.

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