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The Chinglish that I write about regularly is only one member of a burgeoning brood of English hybrid languages.  Other well-known congeners of Chinglish are Franglais and Spanglish.  Perhaps less well known, but equally colorful, is Denglish, that variety of German (Deutsch) that has absorbed a conspicuous amount of poorly assimilated English elements.  In a discussion of "word rage" entitled "Shooting too Good" (November 05, 2005), Mark Liberman mentioned Denglish, but it seems to me that this quirky brand of Englishy German deserves greater exposure.  To that end, I present here a hitherto unpublished text entitled "Wok and Roll" (real name of a restaurant in Munich) by (Professor) Antony Tatlow of  Hong Kong University / Trinity College Dublin, now retired.

The text, which came to me in a document labeled "Neudeutsch," was written mainly for Tatlow's and his family's amusement.  He says that the utterances recorded in "Wok and Roll" are not so much remarks as "constructed dialogue."

"Wok and Roll" was written a couple of years ago.  Didi Kirsten Tatlow, his daughter, who was in Germany this past summer, remarks that the amount of English that has crept into German has only increased.  According to Didi, it is almost to the point that, "if you can't think of a German word, you say an English word in a German accent, and it usually works!!!"  In another message, Didi mentioned "the current debate over German and its quite spectacular morphing into English, or at least into Denglish. 'Shoppen,' 'pushen,' 'Sorry!'; you name it, in Germany they're saying it!  Personally, I don't mind it, as I think that along with English phrases is coming a certain relaxation ('relaxen!') of attitudes in the notoriously energetic German psyche. And wasn't it ever thus with the German and English languages?"

Even if you don't know any German, see how much of this you understand simply by virtue of being fluent in English.


Neudeutsches Gespräch
Das Reisen ist lange nicht mehr, was es einmal war. –
Stimmt, vorgestern gab’s einen Stromausfall in der Rush-Hour und ein Blackout in der Metropole. –
Ich hörte sogar die Highspeed-Züge blieben stehen. –
Aber ein automatisches Train-Control-System soll den Bahn-Betrieb wirtschaftlicher machen. –
Und bis dann? –
Nu, FAQ bei der Bundesbahn anklicken. –
Schafft man’s zum Airport, dann hat Lufthansa alle Flüge gecancelt. –
Wo bleibt da das Urlaubsfeeling? –
Man muß neudenken, clever sein. –
Mein Vetter hat Catering und den technischen Service outgesourct, sogar seine Business-Kunden mietete er in den Flughafen-Lounges der Konkurenz ein. –
Das wird ein lohnenswerter Stopover. –
Geradezu ein globaler Crossover-Hit. –
Aber trotzdem ein Jobkiller.
Hast Du denn Deine Homepage schon fertig? –
Sie ist ja nicht mandatiert! –
Aber so easy. Du brauchst nur einen coolen Screenshot, dann einige Features, ein gutes Display immer mit einem netten Gimmick. –
Da bin ich eher ganz relaxt. –
Du mußt aber zum nächsten Level kommen, überhaupt mehr Commitment zeigen. –Ich höre die zwei Münchner Unis planen schon ein Institute for Advanced Study. – Leuchtet ein. Im weltweiten Ranking muß Deutschland doch aufholen, zum richtigen Global Player avancieren. –
Heute braucht man ein breites Set an Qualifikationen. –
Du weißt, wir haben schon einen Anfang gemacht: ein Info-Tisch mit Schul-Buttons in einer Power-Point-Präsentation; sieben Freunde waren die Models und haben die Shirts vorgeführt. Das Rollout war OK, und das Sale ist gelungen. –
Man muß nur zum aktiven User werden. Schau doch: ‘Klicken Sie hier, um eine kurze Beschreibung unseres Weinguts downzuloaden. Eine ausgewählte Backlist gibt es selbstredend auch.’ –
Aber wenn es zum Crash kommt? –
Dann heißt es ‘Setzen Sie sich mit unserem Support in Verbindung.’ –
Und die ist immer in Bangalore oder Ireland. –
Also kein effektiver Troubleshootereinsatz. –
Leider ja. –
Du meinst: Leider nein.-
Außerdem mag ich nicht Cyber-Mobbing oder Rent-a-Vollidiot. –
Macht nichts, Du kannst dann surfen, zB. Al Gore zuhören. Der ist ja vom Loser zum Vater Courage mutiert. Oder Qualifying im Liveticker verfolgen. –
Aber Räikkönen ist immer top, er hat sich gestern schon wider die Pole-Position geschnappt. –
Gehen wir lieber zum Diner. –
Aber dann chinesisch. –
Wohin denn? –
Natürlich zum Wok and Roll am Isartor.

(Dem Volk aufs Maul bzw. Papier geschaut, ist dies ein echtes Denglisch und keineswegs frei erfunden.)


  1. Jonathan Badger said,

    September 21, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

    There is also the phenomenon of pseudo-English usages in German. For example, cell phones are "Handys"; presumably derived from the English adjective "handy", as if people called cell phones that in English.

  2. richard said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:12 am

    @Jonathan, I suspect "handy" is probably shortened from "handphone," and not from the English "handy" at all. Although users may well recognize the pun there, of course.

  3. SilenceIsGolden said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:18 am

    As an editor for books in the German language (and a German myself) I encounter this phenomenon on a daily basis — and it drives me up the walls. It used to be just those writers who wanted to be "cool" (of course that's a new "German" word now too).

    Scarily, though, I recently discovered that there is a trend to forgo perfectly normal German words that are not "uncool" and can be understood by members of all generations, because younger authors don't have those readily available in their vocabulary. Those other words in "real" German would also be preferable because they are often richer and more colorful idioms.

    And what Jonathan Badger said is another scary trend: simply because more and more Germans use words that sound English and are English, but have a completely different meaning. Most of the time, the meaning of those newly adopted words eludes the users — so they don't think twice about brainlessly adopting bad marketing lingo and keep calling a backpack that's worn diagonally across the back a "bodybag"…

  4. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:27 am

    For a pretty good survey of "Denglish," see

    My two pet peeves are: Ich bin durch die Hölle gegangen. ("I went through hell.") and especially jemanden antörnen ("to turn somebody on" = to excite somebody sexually), fully conjugated like a German verb:

    Ich törne sie an. ("I turn her on.").
    Du törnst sie an.
    Er/sie/es törnt sie an.
    Wir törnen sie an.
    Ihr törnt sie an.
    Sie törnen sie an.

    Ich törnte sie an. ("I turned her on.").

    Ich habe sie angetörnt. ("I've turned her on.").

  5. Josh said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:30 am

    How do you pronounce it in English? Ding-glish? Doing-glish? Dung-glish? Den-glish (as in Denmark)? Dang-glish?

  6. Coby Lubliner said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:44 am

    Because of that initial D (for "deutsch"), it seems to me that the name of this language variety makes sense only if it's spelled Denglisch. A more "English" version of the name would Gerglish. (Compare Franglais vs. Spanglilsh, though Frenglish and Espanglés would work.)

  7. SilenceIsGolden said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:44 am

    @Josh: You could also call it "Germlish" — that's my partner's preferred name for it. As an American, she had to deal with this phenomenon on a daily basis at work when we lived in Germany. She still recalls the empty looks she got when she asked what her colleagues meant by "beamer" — as she only knew it as a nickname for a BMW. (They were talking about a projector, btw.)

  8. Coby Lubliner said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:45 am

    I meant to write "would be Gerglish".

  9. Nee in Germany said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:24 am

    I've always heard it came from an earlier name for a walkie-talkie, and this site seems to confirm that:

    From "handie-talkie."

  10. Nee in Germany said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:29 am

    Oops. Further perusal of the article shows that someone from the Institute for German Language doubts that it goes back that far, and that the current usage probably dates to the 70s & 80s when "hand-" was used in English and German as a prefix to describe the size of small personal electronics, like "handycam."

  11. Nathan Myers said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:48 am

    It's the words that look like English but mean something completely different that fascinate me. Satisfaction comes when one of those appears in English, supplanting the native English meaning. Hasn't the equivalent happened to French a few times?

  12. Dierk said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:56 am

    OMG, that pseudo-issue has come to Language Log. No, it's not that bad, no, it's usually short-lived fads. Most English and pseudo-English is used in technology-realted businesses [computers and cellulars] and advertising.

    A good example is 'bodybag' which is always used as an example of how stupid people are to use anything but their native tongue. Curiously I've only encountered it in 'Sprachnörgler' [language grumps] articles, in articles about Sprachnörgler, and in one – probably construed – example instance. The word is not widespread, it may have been used once erroneously by a journalist or copy writer but didn't gain hold. Like many other terms wooshing by in TV commercials.

    'Handy' shows quite well what really happens and how language works. The way it is used it is a genuine German word with a pronunciation reminiscent of English. The correct spelling, on the basis of traditional sound-letter combination would be 'Hendi', which is so close to the Southern German-Austrian word for 'chicken' [as a dish: Hendl] that it would elicit giggles.

    Personally I always found the German word for cellular or mobile phone much better because it is removed from the technical terms used in US and UK English; it is more emotional, concentrating on the benefit to the user. It is also living proof of productivity. Languages do not develop in a vacuuam, the develop because society changes, technology advances, people and their languages come in contact.

    @Reinhold Aman
    'Törn' isn't that new in German, having been used for at least several decades in Northern German for a short sailing trip. As the changed spelling proves the 'antörnen' you disdain has become a genuinely German word, far removed from the original meaning.

    'Denglisch' as in Denmark [mind the spelling containing the 'c', it is the German word 'Englisch' not the english word used].

  13. Joaquim said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 4:07 am

    Another nice example of pseudo-English is the "Spanish" word fúting (or footing) which means jogging.

  14. John Stewart said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 4:33 am

    On the one hand, I think you're right to call this a "pseudo-issue." The German language is NOT under threat by borrowings and anglicisms. With about 100 million native speakers, there won't be a switch to everyone speaking English from one day to the next. This is something that has always gone on and always will. And you can even view it as an enrichment of the language rather than contamination, or some other negative value-judgment. It seems to me that the above post is only meant as a neutral description of the phenomenon, while some of the comments do show people's subjective take on it.
    On the other hand, even if it isn't a part of the linguist's job description, prescriptivism is another phenomenon that is here to stay. After all, language performs not only communicative functions but also social ones. So people are going to judge other people's use of language. And I think an interesting question is, "What sociolinguistic functions, if any, do speakers use foreign words and recent loanwords from prestigious languages for?" When there is no equivalent in the borrowing language, it probably seems harmless or even desirable to most listeners. But do some speakers pepper their speech with superfluous borrowings in a prestige-seeking fashion? Is there a line that speakers can cross where they will be perceived by others as pompous or pretentious? There's a much quoted interview with fashion designer Jil Sander (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22 March 1996) that elicited those kinds of reactions:
    “Ich habe vielleicht etwas Weltverbesserndes. Mein Leben ist eine giving-story”, sagt Jil Sander, “ich habe verstanden, daß man contemporary sein muß, das future-Denken haben muß. Meine Idee war, die hand-tailored-Geschichte mit neuen Technologien zu verbinden. Und für den Erfolg war mein coordinated concept entscheidend, die Idee, daß man viele Teile einer collection miteinander combinen kann. Aber die audience hat das alles von Anfang an auch supported. Der problembewußte Mensch von heute kann diese Sachen, diese refined Qualitäten mit spirit eben auch appreciaten. Allerdings geht unser voice auch auf bestimmte Zielgruppen. Wer Ladyisches will, searcht nicht bei Jil Sander. Man muß Sinn haben für das effortless, das magic meines Stils.”

  15. bulbul said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 4:42 am

    Rent-a-Vollidiot, I am sooo using that.

    I'm with Dierk, in that my reaction is 'So?'
    Most English and pseudo-English is used in technology-realted businesses [computers and cellulars] and advertising.
    One of these days I will record a meeting or just a lunch conversation at the Fortune 500 technology company I work for. And just listening to our team (15 native speakers of Slovak, 2 native speakers of Hungarian and one native speaker of Arabic) would furnish any potential researcher (grant money please) with tons of examples. The wonders Slavic verbal suffixes can do still amaze me; consider this which I got just a few minutes ago as the reply to a request:
    "No ja to aprúvnem, ale musíš mi provajdnúť džastifikáciu."

    A great subject for psycholinguistic research, certainly, but I'd wouldn't describe it as a hybrid language (i.e. a separate linguistic system), at least not yet, not even in terms of language intertwining. It's mostly confined to borrowings (which are then perfectly adapted to the native morphology) and to some extent to prepositional usage (which I suspect has already been greatly influenced by German and Russian). When it starts messing with the morphology, that will be something.

    "cool" (of course that's a new "German" word now too)
    It's been around since early 90s at least. Does '20 years old' still classify as new?

  16. Jayarava said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 4:43 am

    I'm not sure why people see hybridisation as a bad thing. English itself is the product of imposing French on German! French is regional Latin. Latin and Proto-Germanic are both regional variations on Proto-Indo-European. Assimilation of words is one of the most widely attested ways for a language to change. The Vedic of the Ṛgveda contains about 300 loans from Proto-Munda which tells us something about the interactions of the Vedic and Munda speaking peoples in the 2nd millennium BC. We know the routes that Roma took on the way to Western Europe from Rajastan, and how long they lingered at each stop, from the number of loan words picked up as they travelled. And so on.

    It's just what people do with language. It reflects the way cultures interact. To call neologisms or loan words 'pseudo' anything, with the implied disapproval, is to misunderstand the dynamic surely?

  17. Scott said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 5:06 am

    My German teacher when I was 15 or so, who was actually German, once said that if we know the answer, "Hansen putten uppen!"

    It's my favourite non-German German phrase.

  18. Ray Girvan said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 5:19 am

    Dierck: … Sprachnörgler

    I like that term. Can we borrow it back into English, and call language peeving "nurgling"?

  19. Leo said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 5:25 am

    Like many people I've noticed this tendency in Germany, but although it can be amusing as an English-speaker to hear Germans saying things like "troubleshooter", it's all quite superficial. That Neudeutsches Gespräch is not a "hybrid language", and would not be intelligible to English-speakers – it's standard German with some English buzzwords thrown in (and one instance of the word "yes"). German is still German, and still a foreign language to Anglophones.

  20. Q. Pheevr said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 5:32 am

    Any discussion of Denglisch needs to include at least a nod to the song of that name by the a capella group Wise Guys. The complaint in the song is almost certainly tongue-in-cheek (consider the name of the group singing it!), and they seem to have a lot of spaß mit ihren code-switching.

    The link I've supplied here is to a recording with lyrics posted on, a site that itself provides plenty of other examples; links on the same page include "meine Watchlist" and "ähnliche Videos."

  21. Pflaumbaum said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 6:05 am

    @ Jayarva

    "French is regional Latin"

    – with a hefty slug of Germanic (Frankish) in it too though!

  22. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 6:28 am

    @bulbul: "No ja to aprúvnem, ale musíš mi provajdnúť džastifikáciu."

    This is a sweet example. This kind of thing is probably seen in any "multinational corporation" context where English is at least partially the working language. I have done quite a bit of translation for a large multinational here in Poland; often, when I asked them what the Polish equivalent would be for an English term, they would say, "There isn't (a good) one; we use the English", even though there were very few non-Poles there.

    Is there a nice technical term for this kind of thing? Local within-community borrowing? Or pidginisation? Is it different, to start with, from "classical" pidginisation? There is a difference, I would say, in that there are relatively few non-natives "on the ground", and the pressure/motivation comes mainly from written sources like corporate proceures etc. But I'm not an expert in the field and can't pass a sufficiently enlightened opinion…

    However, I think this is different from the type of thing exemplified by Denglish here, or by Chinglish, Franglais etc. The domain is limited to the multintionals and their workforce. I have a feeling that — for the populace at large — the main drivers are advertising and electronics/software… Handy or anklicken is general vocabulary. I wouldn't expect the average person in the Polish street to understand apruwnąć. (Sorry, despite all the Slavonic similarities, I can't form a Slovak infinitive for aprúvnem. Aprúvnúť?)

  23. bulbul said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 6:43 am


    I don't think that's it (plus that term in itself is weird). It's heavy interference, sure, but again, at least in Slovak it doesn't go beyond vocabulary (much). Any sort of restructuring (pidginisation) would involve at least some aspects of morphology and syntax.
    That's why my first thought was intertwining – the grammar is Slovak, the vocabulary English. We could call it 'cubicle intertwining', based on where it usually occurs / starts :)

    The domain is limited to the multintionals and their workforce.
    Yes, it is, but that's where it begins, doesn't it? It's pretty much as any variety characteristic of a particular social group – this is where it starts and some aspects of it may eventually be broadly accepted. Think slang.

    Almost ;) The second 'u' is short (due to what we call the rhythmic law around here – no two long syllables in immediate succession). So 'aprúvnuť'.

  24. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 7:24 am

    bulbul: pidginisation — I don't think that's it (plus that term in itself is weird)

    Well, the term certainly does exist, including professional literature… Just that I don't know if it could be applicable here. Is it different from actually developing a fully-fledged pidgin (if you can say so)? Is morphological or syntactic change required? Or is it good old plain vanilla borrowing? Etc.

    The domain is limited to the multintionals and their workforce. — Yes, it is, but that's where it begins, doesn't it?

    Well, yes, but the question is, will the borrowings ever leave the cubicle, and if so, which ones? And I would say, unless people at large have a need to talk of approving things (with reference to official documentation that uses the term) and providing justifications, then no, they will remain confined to the cubicle… (Because, for the time being at least, the general public will refer to the local legislation, which will still usually be in the local language — even though with the EU, there will be more and more "harmonisation" of terminology.) But I think the same people do have a (larger) need to talk about Handys etc.

  25. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 7:27 am

    BTW, no two long syllables in immediate successios: I could never get my head round the long vowels in Slovak and Czech… Sorry…

  26. Alex said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    This is a really odd false friend – they use it for a sort of mob-based bullying, rather than the 14-year-old girls +Tokio Hotel situation we normally would.

    "Qualifying im Liveticker verfolgen"
    Another odd thing I've noticed – being extremely profligate with the -ing ending – I guess because it sounds so stereotypically English and proudly waves the linguistic origin around.

  27. Patrick Schulz said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 8:18 am

    Assuming that I don't speak German, I would not understand anyhing in that text example than a few content words and parts of it. Further, I'd notice that the apparent english words shape 'German': They're inflected like native german words (see "einen coolen Screenshot" or "downzuloaden”). Actually, it is the Germans who assimilate the English language ;)

    BTW: Why do you say "It is the Germans who…" instead of "*?They are the Germans…" or "*It are the Germans who…"? In German we inflect for number in this case: "Es sind die Deutschen, die…" instead of "*Es ist die Deutschen, die…"

  28. Viktor Brech said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 8:23 am

    Most instances of this "creeping in" occur in one of two contexts: either they are related to technology ("downloaden", "FAQ", etc.), or to business ("outsourcen", "Power Points", etc.).

    In the former case, I believe it is necessary for efficient communication, since Germans encounter most of these words in a mixed German-English environment (i.e. websites etc. are sometimes in German, sometimes in English). Continuous back-and-forth translation would be tedious. In the latter case, it is mostly a mannerism of consultant types and tone-deaf business folks. This particular jargon is unlikely to spread widely (especially since business buzzwords change so frequently!)

    As to all remaining instances of English creeping into German, I think their number is limited and the trend lines are not very worrying. Germans constantly worry about their language declining, but in actual fact it is gaining in importance and autonomy — the weight of Germany (and its language) withing the EU is continuously increasing, Germany is pushing its language at the UN-level (the German Foreign Office recently translated all UN-related vocabulary etc. and uses the German forms internally (e.g. VN [Vereinte Nationen] instead of UN), and German-language music and film is more prominent than in the past.

  29. bulbul said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 8:32 am


    Another odd thing I've noticed – being extremely profligate with the -ing ending – I guess because it sounds so stereotypically English and proudly waves the linguistic origin around.
    In "Els estrangerismes del català. Com són i per què en tenim", Xavier Rull makes the same point about anglicisms in Catalan and Spanish.

  30. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 8:56 am

    I remember seeing a nearly identical essay in a major German newspaper (FAZ?) almost exactly twenty years ago; only the particular modisms were different. (Less cyberspeak, obviously, and more Fitneßtraining[*] terminology.) And back when I read that, it recalled macaronic poems satirising the "Alamodewesen" of the 17th century that I came across in studying the history of the language. Again, the chief difference was the vocabulary: in the latter case, French instead of English.

    Plus ça change…

    [*] As we spelled it back in those golden days…

  31. Dan Lufkin said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 9:03 am

    Part of the challenge of translating technical stuff from languages of limited diffusion is that you're trying to figure out e-mails among maybe a dozen people who are the only ones in, say, Denmark who are working on some problem. They eat lunch together and develop their own micro-language about some industrial process that their company proceeds to patent. Years later some poor beggar of a translator has to figure out that å mekke means to wash with methyl ethyl chloride. In the big languages, coinages seem to be less idiosyncratic when more people are involved in their creation.

  32. bulbul said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 9:04 am


    re: pidginization.

    Well, the term certainly does exist, including professional literature…
    Well, yes, but you often see it used by authors who are not specialists in the field of language contact (Kees Versteegh, I'm looking at you, sir) as a shorthand for various types of contact-induced language change and I'd like to avoid that. There are several types of contact-induced language change of which pidginization is but one, one that – at least to my mind – requires certain societal conditions to be in place and I don't think that the German/Polish/Slovak-English situation is quite there yet. Plus, I hate to repeat myself, but we're still talking about nothing more than heavy lexical borrowing and that's not enough for pidginization.
    FYI, John Holm, for example, prefers to speak of 'language restructuring' which can be either partial (creolization or even semi-creolization) or complete (pidginization). I quite like that terminology.

  33. Jon said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 9:14 am

    Over drinks at a scientific conference 20 years ago, a German colleague bemoaned the number of English words entering German, saying his language would soon cease to exist. A Belgian colleague replied that this was nonsense, Flemish had long been full of French words, and was as robust as ever.

    I've often wondered why English has so happily adopted foreign words, with not even the Daily Mail trying to work up some xenophobia about it, while speakers of many other languages agonise over the practice. Is it because English has always been a mongrel language, or is it a sign of confidence in the strong position of English internationally, so native speakers feel unthreatened?

  34. Jack Morava said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:17 am

    Poul Anderson's essay `Uncleftish beholding'


    bears mention here: it's a discussion of nuclear chemistry (cf. `atomic theory')
    from an alternate universe where Harold Godwinson prevailed at Hastings…

  35. Theodore said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:23 am

    I would rather call it Deunglish and pronounce it "Doinglish" with a Curly Howard tone of voice.

  36. Sam said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:31 am

    @Jon I strongly suspect that the lack of borrowing angst in Englis is related to the launguage's…casual…syntax & morphology. The "schlep" in "I'm going to schlep my laundry to the laundromat." is less 'complicated' (or marked, or something) than the "download" in "Es gibt ein neues Film downzuloaden." (apologies f/the awk non-native German.)

    Similarly, I have a vague recollection of someone once proposing that English be analyzed as a creole (West Germanic + Old[/middle?] French – inflections/syntax/&c)…ring any bells?

    Lastly: there seems to be no more English in that sample than there is in the Spamglish spoken by my neighbors in BK. They live in an English-majoriy environment. So: kühlen Sie aus, deutsche Leute.

  37. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:33 am

    @Jon: I would say the latter. Show me a language of Europe which isn't a "mongrel". (Icelandic, perhaps?) French is at least as much of a mutt as English, yet the contrast in their respective speakers' attitude toward foreign borrowings couldn't be more pronounced.

  38. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:45 am

    @Sam: I don't really buy this explanation. There are analytic languages which are historically resistant to sound borrowings (Chinese springs immediately to mind) and synthetic ones which have been very open (Japanese, for instance, or–if you prefer a less agglutinative example–Hindustani). As I told Jon, I think the explanation is far more likely to be found in the realm of sociolinguistics.

    As for the "English as creole" hypothesis, it dates back to at least the late 70s and it sometimes seems like I'm constantly coming across advocates for it. What they all have in common, as far as I can tell, is an incomplete understanding of the process of creolisation. As bulbul points out, people far too frequently make indiscriminate use of the terms "pidgin" and "creole" to cover a wide range of language contact situations beyond those where the normal process of language transmission has been disrupted to the point that the grammar has been thoroughgoingly restructured.

  39. bulbul said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 11:02 am


    As for the "English as creole" hypothesis, it dates back to at least the late 70s and it sometimes seems like I'm constantly coming across advocates for it.
    Dtto. I thought Kaufman and Thomason put this to rest, but apparently not.

  40. Robert Coren said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 11:06 am

    About 40 years ago, when I was a sort-of-hippie, I had a brief encounter with some German hippies in Munich, one of whom used the adjective "gestoned" (pronouncing the s as [∫], of course).

  41. Ed said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 11:14 am

    "I've often wondered why English has so happily adopted foreign words, with not even the Daily Mail trying to work up some xenophobia about it, while speakers of many other languages agonise over the practice. Is it because English has always been a mongrel language, or is it a sign of confidence in the strong position of English internationally, so native speakers feel unthreatened?"


    I am forming an eccentric opinion on English, which is that the influence of Anglo-Saxon on the language has been exagerrated. Its more accurate to describe English as a sort of pidgin French, mixed in with lots of Anglo-Saxon and some Danish influences. England was essentially a Norman French colony for at least a century, and is not dissimilar to a creole language.

    This would explain why the French make a fuss about English words appearing in French and vice versa. There are already tons of French words in English, because English is partly derived from (medieval Norman) French but the development of French was unaffected by English.

  42. Qov said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 11:57 am

    It's not like German is kaput and English is some kind über-language into which it's verboten to import anything.

    I've never studied German, but when I as an English speaker open a German grammar, it's like visiting the parents of an old friend. I look around and suddenly so many of the little quirks of English make sense.

  43. Dan Lufkin said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

    Sorry, shoulda said methyl ethyl ketone back there.
    Different stuff entirely.

  44. Sameer said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

    A few more hybrid variations: Hinglish (Hindi + English) and Singlish (Singaporean English)

    For the purist, these might appear blasphemous. But for regular users of these variations, it's a way of life. No raised eyebrows there.

  45. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

    Its more accurate to describe English as a sort of pidgin French, mixed in with lots of Anglo-Saxon and some Danish influences. England was essentially a Norman French colony for at least a century, and is not dissimilar to a creole language.


    England was no more a "Norman French colony" than Ireland. There were perhaps 50,000 French-speaking settlers in a population of 1.5 million. The natural process of language transmission among those million and a half was never disrupted–they continued to acquire the Germanic language of their ancestors in the same manner as their counterparts on the Continent.

    I'm not sure what your "eccentric opinion" is informed by, but it's certainly not the field of creolistics. There are many accessible authors writing about these issues–McWhorter, Mufwene, Bickerton, Thomason, etc. You owe it to yourself (and the community at large) to read them.

  46. Mark F. said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

    Books about English always talk about how ready the language is to borrow words, but I bet the rate of borrowing is now lower than for a lot of other languages. To borrow a word you have to know it, and a lot of Anglophones are pretty limited in their foreign language skills.

    On the other hand, historically English is a pretty good example that the Germans needn't fear their language "disappearing," since it was still distinguishable from French after a lot more borrowing from it than German is likely to have from English.

  47. Terry Collmann said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    So, du sagst "body bag" und I say "knapsack". I feel a certain – what's the word? Schadenfreude …

  48. Dave R. said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

    The most frustrating thing about Denglisch as spoken by business executives (the worst offenders alongside marketing types) is that the borrowing of an English word is not necessarily accompanied by the borrowing of it's actual meaning.

    As a native speaker of English, this is both confusing and utterly stupid. When Germans talk about trainees, beamers, body bags or shootings, they are not talking about what you think they are. In fact, in this case they would be referring to graduate trainees, LCD projectors, single-strap, body-hugging bags or bumbags/fanny packs, or photo shoots, respectively.

    To my mind, this behaviour is utterly mindless. Especially in a country that places great importance on fluency in English (kids now start English in nursery school). How is a culture supposed to improve fluency in English while it's busily bastardising it?

  49. David said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    My favorites include a discussion of a standard operating procedure that was "upgedated," and some work that was "outgesourced." This pattern of using German participle structure with English loan words really tickles me, for some reason.

  50. Josh McNeill said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

    I'm glad that the initial onslaught of "I can't stand this trend" comments was eventually diluted by people who don't see a problem with borrowing words. Pardon my ignorance, as many here have a lot more knowledge than I do about such things, but isn't this the sort of thing that helps a language evolve? Even if the meaning is completely different from the original language, even if there's already a perfectly suitable word in the native language for the borrowed word, isn't this still an essentially healthy phenomenon? We have a word like "super" in English yet many people still choose the word "uber" and we have "appropriate" and still use "apropos" at times. To me, these things just make a language richer and the words tend to take on their own meaning, so why worry? Neither of the words I listed seem to mean quite the same things in their original language and that seems almost preferable to me.

  51. Shoe said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    Freshly arrived in Germany I was surprised to see an advert in the local newspaper with the heading. "Oldtimer zum Verkauf" (old-timer for sale). My first thought was that someone was trying to make money out of an aged parent; on closer inspection of the ad, it became clear that an Oldtimer is a vintage car.

  52. R M Maier said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

    I'm with Dierck, going 'oooh. So?', but btw I do like bulbul's "to aprúvnem atd." example…

    In other news, the Sprachnörglers' attempts to expurgate anglicisms has lead to some rather weird phenomena, such as the attempt to replace the perceived anglicism of Handy with a more ostentatiously German-sounding, but actually loan-translated Mobiltelefon (as a colleague reports). Could that be called a… folk nativization?

  53. Roger Lustig said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

    20+ years ago I translated a book from German. Once done, I met with the author, Carl Dahlhaus. He asked me whether his German had given me much trouble. I mumbled something about "old-fashioned in a good way" and he responded by claiming that, unlike modern scholarly German, his writing (and he did enormous amounts of it) did not necessarily use words and phrases that had obvious, unambiguous English cognates, i.e., that allowed for easy translation.

    I have no idea whether either half of this assertion is true–that German academics write like that and didn't some time in the past, and that Dahlhaus did this any less than others did.

    Has anyone here heard about this alleged phenomenon? If so, when did it take hold? (We're talking about the humanities here, not natural sciences.) Was there conscious effort involved, a particular policy or anything like that?

  54. Michael W said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

    I don't know why either, but I have the same reaction as David to the 'separable' verbs like outgesourct.

    I never thought about the "It is" vs "Es sind" difference before. It's a case of 'subject-verb agreement' – grammatically 'it' is always singular, so requires a singular verb.
    I think this may have some effect of how a phrase like "It's the cops!" is interpreted. If you ask English speakers what the 'it' is a pronoun for, they might be liable to say it refers to some nebulous or unknown entity (similar to the 'it' in "It's raining") which is being equated with the police, not to the police in that sentence itself. Compare "It's the bees knees!" which requires an external referent for 'it' in order to make sense. That's a bit of a digression, as it's enough to point out that grammatically, 'it' is what 'it' is.

    I'm curious about "Leider ja". I wonder if this is really seen as an English intrusion or if this was something that developed more or less on its own, with possible foreign influence.

  55. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

    @Roger: I know there have been some interesting shifts in the field of linguistics over the past couple centuries. Nowadays, the vocabulary is fully internationalised and I read about Nomina and Tempora where many older texts discuss Hauptwörter and Zeit(form)en. There seems to have been a peak of nativisation in the early part of the 20th century when such innovative terminology as Wesfall for Genitiv was apparently commonplace in school instruction.

  56. bulbul said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 5:49 pm


    Walter Till's "Koptische Grammatik", first edition 1955 (to pick a random book close at hand), has Nomina and Pronomina, but Zahlwörter; "Die Formen des Verbums" and "Verbalklassen", but "Der Umstandsatz". In my experience, in the terminology of grammar (at least the of the traditional 'phonology-morphology-syntax' variety), the choice has been either native or Latin for a century or so.

  57. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

    @ Dierk:

    @Reinhold Aman
    'Törn' isn't that new in German, having been used for at least several decades in Northern German for a short sailing trip. As the changed spelling proves the 'antörnen' you disdain has become a genuinely German word, far removed from the original meaning.

    We're talking about two different words with different meanings, Törn (noun) and antörnen (verb). I don't care about the first one, the North-German sailing-related one, but the stupid antörnen ("to turn sb. on," "to excite sexually") — which I encountered for the first time about ten years ago — really turns me off (*Es törnt mich wirklich ab!). In addition, antörnen is not at all "far removed from the original meaning" but means exactly the same what its English source, to turn on, means.

  58. John said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 7:42 pm

    I've discovered that a bunch of the English I found used in Italy in the 80s is no longer common. So "weekend" is more typically "finesettimana", for example, and people more rarely do "footing" when they are jogging.

  59. Zoe said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    How is "Leider ja" an example of English intrusion? I don't see it. (Full disclosure: I am not a linguist.)

  60. chris said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

    @Reinhold {Rey} Aman:

    Regardless of the origins of "antörnen", I still agree with Dierk that this sort of word should be the least of your worries. I think it's actually quite a positive example: the spelling is creative, it enriches the German language in a small way (because "anmachen" arguably doesn't have quite the same shades of meaning), and as you say, it means more or less exactly what the English expression means. This is a not a bad thing. As SilenceIsGolden suggested above, one of the real problems with Denglish comes when German speakers whose command of English is not perfect start happily using Denglish words like "Bodybag" and "Beamer" in English…

    Another aspect of Denglish which anyone would be fully justified in being annoyed by is its use by business people and others purely in order to give the (probably false) impression that they are "on the cutting edge" and up to date with all the latest developments and ideas. In English-speaking business circles, the lack of a convenient widely-spoken foreign language means that buzzwords like "anniversarying" are constantly churned out to meet this need instead. I've always felt there was a lot of truth in that German saying, "Wer nichts zu sagen hat, sagt's auf Englisch" (He who has nothing to say says it in English").

    One other random thought on this topic: I love how native German speakers always seem to instinctively know what the German gender should be for any English noun. The "-ing" words, for example (which, as Alex notes above, are inordinately popular in German, possibly in part because of the German preference for expressing things in noun form where English speakers would use a verb), are always neuter: das Meeting, das Qualifying etc. In some gendered languages, nearly all borrowed words are given a default gender, such as French where they become masculine. But in German we get der Claim, der Support, das Service, die Performance, die Homestory… Fascinating.

  61. Mariel said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

    Words like Handy are referred to as false cognates in Linguistics.
    I really have a problem with the use of words like: bastardization of language. What's the problem with langauges evolving!?

  62. JimG said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

    Lest we fall to a recency error, the Germans have not entirely their language upselbsgefuckt. Dave Morrah's Heinrich Schnibble (q.v.) did it to them in the Saturday Evening Post and in Morrah's books, lo some 50 or 60 years ago.

  63. ShadowFox said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

    Just to be clear–that's "sorri", not "sorry".

  64. Dierk said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 2:44 am

    @Reinhold Aman

    Both 'törns' are derived from English 'to turn', both basically meaning the circular movement as in 'turn around' or 'turning the screw'.

    There's no rational reason to be against one, the other, or both 'törns', it's a pet peeve. Nothing against that, I've got a few myself, some even language-related, I usually prefer to adjust my usage accordingly, like preferring 'selbstverständlich' over 'natürlich' if something is 'understood; a matter of course; self-evident' but not necessarily a matter of nature.

    I also tend to avoid [pseudo-]English words if there is a perfectly good, well-established German term – the operative here being 'well-established'. Due to several limiting factors this holds true mainly for writing.

  65. Ignacio said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 7:05 am

    In Argentina the word 'handy' is used for walkie-talkies and two way radios, but not run of the mill cellphones. On the other hand, 'footing' was popular maybe twenty years ago, but has fallen by the wayside, replaced by the more folksy and quite obvious and descriptive metaphor 'correr', and the more pretentious-sounding, and much less commonly heard, 'jogging' (used as a noun – as in the verbal phrase 'hacer jogging').

  66. Dan said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 10:57 am

    There's this great line in the Fettes Brot song "Da Draussen" re: Denglish —

    ich bin der letzte der geht, wenn alle anderen walken
    bin der letzte der spricht, wenn alle anderen talken

  67. Dexter Edge said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

    I was tickled by Tatlow's text and reproduced it in a post on my blog:

    One of my German-speaking readers immediately wrote to point out that where Tatlow writes:

    "Das Rollout war OK, und das Sale ist gelungen."

    it should instead be:

    "Das Rollout war OK, und DER Sale ist gelungen!"

    A quick Google search suggests this is correct.

    The same Google search turned up several instances of "das Sale-and-Lease-Back-Verfahren." An example:

    "Das Sale-and-lease-back-Verfahren entspricht im Wesentlichen dem des oben diskutierten Financial-Leasings." (from Andreas Pfnür, Modernes Immobilienmanagement, p. 164)

  68. Roger Lustig said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

    @Zoe: perhaps "leider ja" is seen as replacing "leider doch"; note that it's followed by "leider nein" and not "leider nicht." We say "Yes/No, alas"; on the other hand, we say "unfortunately so/not," which is more like "doch/nicht."

    @Daniel: my dad had a Germanic-vocabulary guide from the WWI era. Hilarious, and the preface was as beautifully ignorant as anything I've encountered.

  69. Dierk said,

    September 24, 2010 @ 2:46 am

    @Dexter Edge and those interested in gender

    For words borrowed from a language not differentiating for gender in the article the base rule in German is to use the one associated with the German [translated] word. As with every rule in German there are exceptions that cannot be put into rules of their own.

    Hence, DER Computer [from Rechner], DER Sale [from Verkauf], DIE Rush-hour [from Hauptverkehrszeit].

    Frankly, most German do not know the rule, as it is not taught often, even those with university degrees have trouble with this.

  70. Robert Furber said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 12:18 am

    More than one person has had the idea to call their Chinese restaurant Wok and Roll. For instance, there is one by that name in Oxford.

  71. Michael Woelk said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 7:20 am

    Wok-puns seem to be common practice in Germany – I live near a chinese restaurant called the "Wok of Fame"… I'd also like to point out that "Mobiltelefon" is *not* merely a loan-translated word like R M Maier said, but rather the most logical German name for what it is – a mobile phone. There are other German words with the prefix "mobil" to imply the movable nature of an object, so calling "Mobiltelefon" a "loan-translated word" is a little far fetched.

  72. Karen Hubachek said,

    October 1, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    re: Denglish, Deunglisch, etc"

    My daughter spent the summer in Austria taking German courses. She and the other Americans ended up speaking to each other in a mishmash of both languages, which they called Germanglish.

  73. Gordon P. Hemsley said,

    October 17, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    "Even if you don't know any German, see how much of this you understand simply by virtue of being fluent in English."

    Actually, very little. Not knowing any German also tends to go along with not knowing how to read German. Thus, the numerous similarities that no doubt exist within the text when spoken are completely opaque to native English speakers who cannot read German and translate it to spoken Germlish/Denglisch.

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