DENGLISH.

A New York Times story by Richard Bernstein describes the confusing mixture of English and German in today’s Germany:

Not long ago, Lufthansa, the airline, made a bit of news when it changed its slogan from “There’s No Better Way to Fly,” in English, to the German, “Alles für diesen Moment,” or “Everything for This Moment.”
What was the German national airline doing with an English slogan aimed at its German clientele in the first place? Who knows really? But whatever it was doing, many companies in Germany have used English, or some mishmash of German and English – the not very beautiful term for this is Denglish, a combination of Deutsch and English – to appeal to their German customers.

Now, as the Lufthansa example illustrates, there are some signs of a reversal, or, at least, the German press has reported on a few other companies reverting to the language that the population of this country actually speaks. The chain of perfume shops called Douglas (a German company, pronounced DOO-glahss) went from “Come in and find out,” to “Douglas macht das Leben schöner,” or “Douglas makes life more beautiful.”…
A private company in Hanover, Satelliten Media Design, in conjunction with Hanover University, keeps track of one key aspect of the entire mixed language phenomenon, annually tabulating the 100 words most used in German advertising. In the 1980′s, only one English word made the list. The word, a bit improbably, was “fit.” By 2004, there were 23 English words on the chart.
The first four words are still German – wir (meaning we), Sie (you), mehr (more) and Leben (life). In fifth place is the English “your,” followed farther down the list by world, life, business, with, power, people, better, more, solutions and 13 more.

The article has lots more examples, along with some speculation as to why English words are so popular (“English is hipper and quicker in general”). Thanks to Douglas for the link!
For more on Denglish, see Transblawg (also here and here).

Comments

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    I don’t know if English is quicker in general than German, but liturgical English is quicker than liturgical German. I belong to a bilingual Lutheran church. Usually the English and the German services are seperate, but we occasionally do a joint service. Some of the texts, such as the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer, are recited in both languages simulataneously, with the individual congregants using whichever they prefer. We Anglophones have to constantly wait for the Germans to catch up. The pacing of this sort of thing is peculiar, so I don’t know how much one can generalize from it.

  2. I used to run across this all the time when I worked for an advertising agency in Asia. When 99% of the population studies English in school, it becomes another tool in the commercial artist’s arsenal. Our most successful phrases were those that sounded natural when translated literally into the native language (usually the question of how it sounded to an English speaker was considered irrelevant).
    Also, I think people around the world are used to American commercial products with generic names that mean something in English, but which are not translated because they’re trademarked (several Microsoft products come to mind). So the idea of injecting foreign terminology into sentences is no longer terribly shocking, and the line between product name and logo is often blurred.

  3. Has someone put together a matrix of these portmanteau language combination terms? Denglish, Franglais, Spanglish. In South America, they have Portunhol.

  4. In greece we have what’s known as Greeklish but it is more frequently used to describe the different modes of writing greek text using latin characters.
    In any case people use a lot of english words for everything. When asked people will say the english words are hipper, shorter and often more understandable than their greek counterparts. Excluding ‘hipper’ I personaly think that the justifications are excuses for lack of imagination and knowledge of Greek, but in any case the english words have been adopted and now there’s no sense campaigning to change Compact Disk (CD) to Σύμπακτος Δίσκος ['si:mpa:ktos ði:skos] or ΣυΔί [si:ði:] for short.

  5. Ingeborg S. Nordén says:

    The corresponding phenomenon in Sweden is svengelska or “Swenglish”–which extends beyond product names/slogans, beyond technical terms, to ordinary conversational words. I’ve heard Swedes use English “sorry”, “oh s**t” and “cozy” in conversations which otherwise took place in their native language…never mind that good Swedish equivalents of the words I cited have existed for years. Ugggh…

  6. Many Asian pop and rock groups have English names. Japanese album names and song titles are also frequently in English, even though the songs are mostly or entirely in Japanese.

  7. One German company has gone a bit further than Lufthansa, and is using its German slogan in English-speaking markets. Audi has “Vorsprung durch Technik” on every ad I’ve seen in Australia for some years. “Technik” would probably conjure up ideas of quality German engineering, but the rest would be lost.

  8. I don’t think there’s a combination word for English Dutch -yet- but the gratuitous use of English words in Dutch is a great source of irritation. Normal Dutch conversation are interspersed with English words like “sneaky”, “fucking”, and, worst of it all “flabbergasted”.
    English verbs become Dutch-ised: to shop – shoppen, to check – checken.
    Even our own government can’t be relied on for the use of the Dutch language as invariably government-supported programs are given an English name. For instance, a few months ago there was a sudden panic because the Dutch were in danger of becoming obese. A health and excersise program was initiated -stressing the need of good exercise, at least 30 minutes a day- and promoted by our government. It was called the “Flash-methode”.
    Recently, I saw something similar.
    It does piss me off but I realize it’s hard to avoid. Worse, sometimes I catch myself doing it. Aargh.

  9. When I was studying in Germany, conversations between all the English exchange students were peppered with German words.
    For example, we’d talk about going “to the Kino” and the like. By the end of the year, our everyday vocabulary was a strange mix of the two languages.
    It always amuses me to hear Germans and French deploring the way English words insinuate themselves into their languages, given that so much of English was borrowed from them (or their older forms) in the first place.

  10. Rob’s comment on Dutch usage amused me – when I worked for a Dutch company English was used in internal meetings in the Netherlands, even among native Dutch. I would pick out ‘sorry’ and a host of expletives and was tempted to practice a few expressions myself. Once travelling to NL I heard the Dutch stewardess asking a netherlander what she wanted to drink: ‘Jus d’orange’ was the answer…

  11. The word for Dutch and English mixed together is “Dunglish”, which I really like.
    Like Germany, ad slogans in the Netherlands are often in English. They’ll probably get tired of it after a while, but either way, it doesn’t worry me.
    The only time the use of English words bugs me is when the Dutch person in question is obviously using them to be fashionable and they get it wrong. I guess I shouldn’t be snobby about it but it grates on my ears like a wrong note.

  12. What I love in Denglish is the use of English words to mean things they don’t mean in English. Handy (meaning mobile phone) is one of the best examples, I think, because it’s so far afield but still it’s just so… well… handy! I lived in Switzerland for a while and wound up saying Handy in English for the same meaning because it was so much less awkward than “cell phone” or whatever.
    Other Denglish favorites of mine involved combinations of English and German words in ways that were perhaps not what the speaker/writer intended. Swiss restaurants seemed to seize on the word Hit and used it to refer to a popular or special dish; I found this odd, but the next step was the crowning achievement: They would then want to refer to the daily special, so they’d call it the Tageshit (likewise the monthly special would be the Monatshit). I wonder if they ever realized how hilarious this was to English speakers, who would naturally divide the word Tageshit one letter earlier than intended…

  13. When America’s Pizza Hut went to Germany they didn’t translate their name to German, just kept the “Hut,” thus setting up shop as “Pizza Hat.” The company’s off-kilter “hut” drawing (purposefully?) fits this particular translation. The Germans I know don’t understand it but DO find it amusing. They also like the pizza.

  14. “Alles für diesen Moment”
    Probably I am showing how ancient my German is, but what happened to “Augenblick?” Or does it carry a different connotation than “Moment?”

  15. Cryptic Ned says:

    For example, we’d talk about going “to the Kino” and the like. By the end of the year, our everyday vocabulary was a strange mix of the two languages.
    I think this happens with any group that goes from their native language to a foreign area where they have to communicate. It would be interesting to study how much more convenient the foreign word is before it replaces the native word – for example, “Kino” would replace “movie theater” much sooner than most German words would replace English words.
    I think all the people on my trip to Lithuania will be using the word “Negazuota” whenever we get together, because in order to get non-carbonated water you always had to say “Negazuota”.
    That was the thing that surprised me most about Europe, the fact that the default state for water is heavily fizzy. I didn’t start asking for water without bubbles until maybe the 6th time I ordered water, because it was so hard to believe that in every single restaurant, when you order water, they assume you want club soda. I just kept thinking that it was some peculiarity of an individual restaurant, but the pattern became obvious.
    When America’s Pizza Hut went to Germany they didn’t translate their name to German, just kept the “Hut,” thus setting up shop as “Pizza Hat.” The company’s off-kilter “hut” drawing (purposefully?) fits this particular translation. The Germans I know don’t understand it but DO find it amusing. They also like the pizza.
    Two German exchange students at my high school both thought the restaurant was simply named after the German word for “hat”, seeing as all Pizza Hut buildings are designed to have weird roofs that look like hats, and the English word “hut” isn’t one of the first ones a foreigner would learn.
    One German word entered the lexicon of an activist group at my college; we would put up flyers all the time, and there were these cylindrical structures composed of vertical strips of corkboard with gaps between them, designed to have flyers attached to them. We were bemoaning the fact that whenever we assigned flyering areas we had no good way to indicate these things. One guy said that in Germany this thing was called something like a “Litfa-seula”, so that’s what we called them. Leetfazoilas.
    I never was really curious about how to spell this word before, and I am shocked that it’s actually “Litfasssaeule”, which seems to break several German orthography rules, especially since “Litfasssaeule” gets 5,130 Google hits and “Litfasssäule” gets one.
    What does this word actually mean?

  16. Good question. I find it’s also Litfass-saule (with a hyphen), and this page (showing one of the cylindrical structures) is headed simply Litfass. But I don’t have access to my German dictionaries at the moment. Anybody know what “Litfass” means? (The second part means ‘column.’)

  17. Michael Farris says:

    According to this page
    http://www.fecho.de/Zinnfiguren/s035.htm
    Litfaß is a proper name.
    “Weil er sich über wild geklebte Plakate geärgert hatte, erfand der Berliner Druckereibesitzer Ernst Litfaß die runde Anschlagsäule für Plakate, die noch heute seinen Namen trägt.”
    (very rough translation, my German’s pretty rusty)
    Because he was upset at posters being plastered all over the place, the Berlin printingpress(?) owner Ernst Litfass founded/propogated(?) the round Announcement column that bears his name to this day.

  18. For Russian-speakers: this “structure” is called афишная тумба, this is quite old and stable expression which reflects long history of small-form urban design, along with public benches in parks, trash collectors, canopies for transport stops, etc.
    I was very much surprised when fresh in US with the rarity of the thing, considering general practicality of urban American design. For example, the usual places for events posters in NY are temporary fences surrounding construction sites – in absence of designated display, despite warning signs attached to it. But how else you can learn of upcoming gallery event or concert while walking out of the office for lunch?
    The whole rich tradition of art posters is based on displaying them on this “anouncement columns”. Their round form is historically evolved, too, allowing passers-by to see the content from all sides.
    Thanks for bringing this up, I’ll enter it as another item in my [mental so far] list of missing conviniences for urban planner- correspondent of mine, which he invited in his book.

  19. Allan Beatty says:

    My favorite examplke of Denglish is a warning given to new members of a mailing list: “Spammer werden sofort gekickt.” It’s just so blunt and practical.

  20. On “Litfasssäule” versus “Litfassäule”, the former is the new official after the 1996 “Rechtschreibreform” spelling reform. One of the reforms was to make multiple s’s more “logical”. In compound words where the first word ends in a double s and the second begins with an s, the old spelling rules discarded one s because it looks better, the new spelling rules retain all three because it’s more logical.
    The reforms have become quite controversial in Germany but completely accepted in Switzerland. You can read about the history of German spelling reform on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_spelling_reform and Everything 2 http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=676219
    The official site is at http://www.rechtschreibreform.com
    By the way, http:dict.leo.org says that the actual correct spelling is “Litfaßsäule” (-:
    Andrew Dunbar

  21. I really like Lufthansa. Their airplanes are always clean, friendly and very professional service and the pilots seem more professional than our’s at United, Continental or Delta. Seems to be the good old ‘Made in Germany’. I like it :)

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