Tuesday, January 4, 2011

the germans fear my language too, muahahaha

It's a mighty era to be a native speaker of English. It seems the world fears my language and is instituting fruitless policies to protect their languages against my own. First the Chinese banned English words and phrases. Now, the Germans are getting on the banning bandwagon:

Germany's Transport Minister claimed to have struck an important blow for the preservation of the German language yesterday after enforcing a strict ban on the use of all English words and phrases within his ministry.

Peter Ramsauer stopped his staff from using more than 150 English words and expressions that have crept into everyday German shortly after being appointed in late 2009.

His aim, which was backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, was to defend his language against the spread of "Denglish" – the corruption of German with words such as "handy" for mobile phone and other expressions including "babysitten" and "downloaden". As a result, words such as "laptop", "ticket" and "meeting" are verboten in Mr Ramsauer's ministry. Instead, staff must use their German equivalents: "Klapprechner", "Fahrschein" and "Besprechung" as well as many other common English words that the minister has translated back into German.

16 comments:

bulbul said...

Um, I distinctly remember reading about this last year (cf). Dejavu, recycled article or just lazy journalism?
Also, for better or worse, "handy" is a German word. It must be, 'cause it sure ain't English.

Chris said...

Yep, you're right. This apparently happened in 2009. I guess they Chinese are playing catch up.

Chris said...

It's certainly true that handy is not North American English. It sounds like the kind of English I heard in Hong Kong. British roots?

wolfspider said...

Well, if "handy" isn't a North American English word, it's certainly been in use in North America for a while. People are always saying things like "she's rather handy with a [insert name of tool here]." And people will sometimes refer to a maintenance man as a "handyman". If anything, the latter usage has fallen by the wayside. I live in the southern U.S., though, so it may be a regional thing. I wouldn't be surprised if it had German origins, considering that German is the largest national origin group in the U.S. Up until the early 20th Century, there pockets of people born in the U.S. who grew up speaking German. In central Texas, where I live, there was even a unique German dialect that had some elderly speakers at least as recently the 1980s. I think WWI put an end to entire American communities using German in day-to-day conversation.

I'm not a linguist, but it seems to me that German influence can account for at least some of the differences between British and American English. "Pantyhose" for example, presumably from a variation on the German "hosen", is not used by British English speakers, who just call them "tights", a word with a more specific definition in American English.

Chris said...

wolfspider, yep, that meaning escaped me. I guess I meant it as a term for cellphone.

sndrsch said...

Yea, the german conservatives are sometimes a little bit absurd, especially the bavarian ones...
There are indeed german words which sound english but are not like handy or showmaster...
There was a german cabaret artist who made texts in which only words with germanic roots were allowed: even as a german you didn't understand a word, very funny ;-)
The german language is so rich and expressive because it has taken so much elements from other languages e.g. latin, french, slavic, greek, yiddish in it.

bulbul said...

wolspider,
oh certainly, there is a word spelled "handy" in North American English with the meaning and pragmatic properties you described. But that's not the word I meant.

One theory as to the origin of "handy" is that it traces back to Motorola's "handie-talkies" (e.g.).

D. Sky Onosson said...

In S. Korea, a cellphone is referred to as a "handphone" (with appropriate Korean phonotactics).

D. Sky Onosson said...

Does this mean we should retaliate, and replace "kindergarten"? How about "Oktoberfest"? ;)

Chris said...

Yes, Sky! Yes! We cannot afford to lose the global lexical arms race! Let Oktoberfest become pre-Thanksgiving-drunk's-Eve and kindergaten shall become daycare-for-brats-taught-by-girl-who-just-couldn't-quite-finish-that-English-degree

Chris said...

sndrsch, do you recall the artist's name? I'd love to google for it.

sndrsch said...

No, unfortunately I forgot the name :-(

rhb said...

I once saw an advert (in Rochester, NY) proclaiming "Oktoberfest-August the 8th", so that would have been a REALLY pre-Thanksgiving-drunk's-Eve!

wolfspider said...

bulbul and Chris, my mistake. It clearly says "mobile phone" up there. I need to slow down and read these things instead of just skimming them while trying to perform half a dozen other tasks!

Schplock said...

@sndrsch & Chris,
you might mean this one?

As to Mr Ramsauer: He started his "campaign" a year ago and just now had a press release to give us an update (or to get good press, something he wouldn't get for his actual work, one could guess). If you read German, you'll find several critical remarks about him at the Sprachlog and its Außenstelle (here, here, here, here).

C.T. said...

@Chris and sndrsch.

The name you are looking for is "Josef Filser", a fictional character created by Bavarian author Ludwig Thoma. In the 1980s, the Munich (Bavaria) newspaper "Die Sueddeutsche" published a series of (again) fictional letters by Josef Filser, then (fictional) member of the (real) Bavarian Parliament. These letters were written in very poor English, namely a literal translation from his native Bavarian dialect into English.
Alas, some readers missed out on the linguistic humour behind these letters since they were/are not native speakers (of the aforementioned Bavarian dialect).
The 80s were a decade when it became fashionable to pepper one's German sentences with English words, unfortunately resulting in a pretentious and embarrasing blending of both languages.
The author of Josef Filser's letters (Filserbriefe) aimed at ridiculing both: Speakers of any dialect who are not able to speak Standard German (less proper English), and the fashion to show off one's (mediocre) skills of the English language no matter what.

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