Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Germish (in German Denglisch) also referred to as Denglish, Engleutsch, Germlish, Genglish or Ginglish describes language based on the German grammar that includes a jumble of English and pseudo-English idioms, or vice versa.
Used in all German-speaking countries, Germish owes its existence in part to the cultural predominance of English language pop music, to the international computer slang, and to the use of English as the lingua franca of politics, business, and science.
Because of discrepancies in their pronunciation, syntax, grammar and word use, imported English words must adapt the German language, or German language patterns adapt the English use.
Germanisation of English words
Due to lack of rules for proper declension and conjugation forms, English words within Germish will be added a flexion to, so they often come out in some twisted form. One may hear from native German speakers:
- Ich musste den Computer neu booten, weil die Software gecrasht ist.
I had to reboot the computer because the software crashed.
- Hast Du schon die neuste Mozillaversion downgeloadet / gedownloadet?
Have you already downloaded the newest version of Mozilla?.
Twisting of German idioms and grammar rules
The adaptation also takes the other route, where literal translations from popular English expression slowly but insistently swamp out the correct German words and idioms. Widespread examples of this evolution are:
- Das macht Sinn (That makes sense)
Formerly: Das ergibt einen Sinn, das ist sinnvoll (roughly: That results in something sensible)
- Oh, Hölle! (Oh, hell!)
Previously nonexistent exclamation, used tongue-in-cheek and not as a real curse
- Dieser verfickte Computer (This fucking computer)
Very informal, used by people who know their idiomatic English.
- Nicht wirklich (Not really)
Formerly: Eigentlich nicht (roughly: Not in the proper sense). Considered mildly witty.
Some of those constructs will only be found in youth language, where it has become common, for example, to talk about coole Events which captures almost, but not quite, the respective meaning in English.
Of course, a decent type of Denglisch can also result from English-speaking people trying to converse in German, discovering themselves as embarazados. The unrivalled master of to-the-point German, Kurt Tucholsky, gave a parody of possible mishaps:
- Wären Sie so kindlich meine Briefmarke am Hintern anzulecken?
Literally: Would you be so childish as to lick my stamp's bottom?
whereas the intended meaning could have been: "Would you be so kind as to lick the reverse of my postage stamp?" (arguably a rather contrived example). Here, the two prominent linguistic accidents are the notorious false friend kind/child and the hintern/backside.
The reverse also works. For instance, this can allegedly sometimes be heard from Germans in fast-food restaurants (in English speaking countries):
- I become a hamburger!
It derives its humor from the fact that the English verbs "to get" or "to obtain" translate as the German verb "bekommen", which is in turn similar to the word English word "become" (in German, the word for "become" is "werden"). So what the customer actually wanted to express was the wish to purchase a beef patty sandwiched in a soggy bun, not to become one.
Some Germish has become so pervasive (and so rarely recognized as incorrect) that it has entered the German dictionary. Probably the most striking example of this must be the German term Handy. "Handy" is now the regular and official German word for mobile phone. Many Germans are under the misconception that "handy" was the English term for "mobile phone" as well — they are genuinely surprised when told otherwise. Since English language is often seen as "hip" and "tech-savvy", and also due to the fact that mobile phone adoption in Germany was so rapid, the error was rarely caught and the term "Handy" stuck. Some Germans have suggested that "Handy" has a non-English etymology, but it is rather unlikely such theories are correct: It is probably telling in this context that Germans use American English pronunciation with "Handy" (German pronunciation would be different). There is an alternative term of "Mobiltelefon", but this is almost never used and a speaker using it would be more likely to be identified as a foreigner by Germans.
Another example of unintended consequences in Germish is the use of the word body bag for backpacks, although the proper German word Rucksack would be perfectly acceptable in many dialects of English.
Influence on grammar
Of late there is a German trend to combine words according to English rules by writing them in succession. Following the German grammar rules this is wrong.
- Reparatur Annahme instead of Reparaturannahme
- Manuel's Tasche instead of Manuels Tasche
Or even for the plural:
- Handy's, Dessou's
The false use of the apostrophe is sometimes very rudely referred to as Deppenapostroph which means fool's apostrophe.
Even when the desired effect is not comical, automatic literal translations of idioms or idiomatic language like those produced by AltaVista's Babel Fish can result in language that will most probably sound hilarious. Take the sentence from the German Wikipedia for instance:
- Bitte beachten Sie, dass alle Beiträge zur Wikipedia automatisch unter der "GNU Freie Dokumentationslizenz" stehen. Falls Sie nicht möchten, dass Ihre Arbeit hier von anderen verändert und verbreitet wird, dann drücken Sie nicht auf "Speichern".
The German to English Babel Fish machine translation (as of 2004) of this is:
- Please you note that all contributions stand automatically to the Wikipedia under the "GNU free documentation license". If you did not like that your work is changed here and spread by others, then you press not on "memory".
Instead of the (correct) English sentence:
- Please note that all contributions to Wikipedia are considered to be released under the GNU Free Documentation License. If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then don't submit it here.
For completeness, the English to German Babel Fish machine translation (as of 2004) is as follows:
- Merken Sie bitte, daß alle Beiträge zu Wikipedia betrachtet werden, unter der GNU frei Unterlagen Lizenz freigegeben zu werden, wenn Sie Ihr Schreiben gnadenlos redigiert werden und nicht am Willen neuverteilt werden wünschen, dann einreichen ihn nicht hier.
Of course, this approach to a sort of interlingua can also be taken to the extremes, like in this long-famous warning sign (the German equivalent of the Blinkenlights sign) where the influence of the German tongue is now restricted to parts of the spelling and partial literal back translations which results in a faint impression of a German computer administrator trying to make himself understood:
The experts: Attention! This room is fullfilled mit special electronishe equippment. Fingergrabbling and pressing the cnoeppkes from the Computermashine is allowed for the experts only! So all lefthanders stay away and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working intelligencies. Otherwise you will be outthrown and kicked elsewhere. Also: please keep still and only watchen astaunished the shufting operator!
It is notable that some companies such as Deutsche Bank now do much of their business in English, and that even many American children's films such as Ice Age do not translate their titles into German. This is a matter of great controversy, as are the mostly untranslated menus of many global burger chains.
There seems to be a common notion that English substitutes for plain German words somehow make phrases sound more engaging and technically top-notch. German commercials or - more often - written ads thus are likely to overuse English terms:
- Mit <brand name deleted> können Sie Klingeltöne, Logos und Spiele direkt aufs Handy downloaden.
- Wählen Sie aus Tausenden coolen Sounds, aktuellen Games und hippen Logos.
Truly marvellous inventions can be found in the field of body care :
- Double Action Waschgel
- Vitalisierendes Peeling
- Energy Creme Q10
- Oil Control Gel Creme
- Oil Control Waschgel
Even some of the traditionally conservative companies tend to adopt neologisms that they consider to sound more international than their original German counterparts. Thus, the venerable "Deutsche Bahn AG" (German Rail) did not mind calling their information booths/stands "service points". The word "Kundendienst" (customer service), in contrast, has almost completely fallen out of use now (probably because it actually sounds like more of an effort to German ears than the rather noncommittal "service"). Sometimes such neologisms also use CamelCase, as in the German Telecom's former rate "GermanCall".
Some advertisements are often misunderstood or cannot be translated at all by the majority of customers:
- Come in and find out (Douglas) = Come in and try to find a way out?
- Drive alive (Mitsubishi Motors = Survive driving?
- One Group. Multi Utilities (RWE ) = One group, ...?,
A remarkable marketing example scoffing all advocats of English as the prime advertising language was produced by Audi in their "Vorsprung durch Technik" - campaign that earned Audi international renown even though the slogan might have been untranslatable to most people outside Germany.
- ‘Denglish’ is on the march, a December 2004 article from the International Herald Tribune
- Opinion: Desperately Ditching Denglish, a November 2004 article from the Deutsche Welle website
- Don't fret, it's only Denglish, a DaF student's view on the topic, from Freie Universität Berlin, 2002
- Denglish definition and citation, from a February 2001 article on a "lexpionage" (lexical espionage) website
- Wir haben ge-partied, a 2001 article from an Irish "women's web portal"
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