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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

‘Short German’ text speak spares you from grammar

More and more Germans are using the language of texting in their spoken conversations – conveniently leaving out notoriously complicated adjectives, articles and prepositions that bloat the word count.

'Short German' text speak spares you from grammar
"...and if you leave out the adjectives, you can forget about the Dative!" Photo: DPA

Linguist Diana Marossek has collected dozens of examples of SMS-style 'Kurzdeutsch' (short German) in a new book, Kommst du Bahnhof oder hast du Auto? (You coming station or do you have car?).

According to Marossek, it's becoming increasingly common to hear phrases like “Ich bin noch Büro” (I'm still office) or “Er hat Tor geschossen” (He's scored goal).

That's leaving out some of the parts of German – articles, prepositions, and the troublesome case system and adjective endings that come with them – that often cause German learners the most trouble.

In fact, the way this Kurzdeutsch is constructed is reminiscent of the way many people with a migrant background speak and write, although it's increasingly popular with native speakers, linguists say.

“Such expressions are used when someone wants to sound young,” said Ludwig Eichinger, director of the Institute for the German Language.

And social media as well as texting have their role to play.

“If it's really important to be brief, then there's a high likelihood that such structures will play a role,” Eichinger noted. “You leave out whatever isn't completely necessary.”

“This Kurzdeutsch is even worse than trying to text with Bavarians.” File photo: DPA

“You chat with your mother in the same way as with your mates” on Facebook or WhatsApp, Marossek agreed, explaining that these are new spaces with no particular standards of conduct.

Many researchers also see Turkish influence on the new speech style – although phrases like “Ich bin auf Arbeit” (I'm at work – shortened from “Ich bin auf der Arbeitsstelle”) have long been current in Berlin and elsewhere, said Melanie Kunkel of the Duden publishing house (which publishes the most widely-used German dictionaries).

The Turkish language itself has neither articles nor prepositions.

“The more widespread this way of speaking is among young people, the more influence it has, little by little, on adults without a migratory background who have a lot to do with it in their job or otherwise,” Marossek found out.

During her undercover research in German schools, Marossek even heard teachers using Kurzdeutsch amongst themselves in private – noting phrases such as “Welches Kino geht ihr denn?” (Which cinema are you going?).

“Teachers of course bring it home, and that's how it spreads.”

No fear for end of 'high German'

But Marossek sees little danger that the slangier way of talking will displace classic high German.

It's more likely that Kurzdeutsch will fade away after a generation – or remain firmly stuck in a niche of very informal registers.

“Phrases like 'Kommst du Bahnhof' are even thought of as slangy by the people using them,” Kunkel said.

“Most people who use them are in a position to switch to the standard language depending on the situation.”

SEE ALSO: The 10 weirdest German words that don't exist

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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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