Margaret Marks of Transblawg ponders the question (Spiegel link, in German) of how to handle English loanwords caught in the clutches of German grammar:

In principle, says the article, treat the words just as the English language treats words from the German: bratwurst, bratwursts, abseil, abseiling (but I write Land, Länder in English texts and can’t bring myself to write Amtsgerichts – or bratwursts for that matter).
Sometimes you can avoid the problem by using a German word: not forgewardet or geforwardet, but weitergeleitet; not gevotet, but abgestimmt; not upgedated, but aktualisiert; not gebackupt, but gesichert.
But sometimes the English word is simpler than the German: gestylt, gepixelt, gescannt, simsen (to send SMSs), chatten.


  1. simsen! It reminds me of a phrase brought up by the late and still lamented Alex MacIntyre: apparently the Miami Spanish for “did you page me?” is “mi bipiaste?”
    I know there is an upside-down question mark missing. I don’t know what it is in HTML.

  2. simsen! It reminds me of a phrase brought up by the late and still lamented Alex MacIntyre: apparently the Miami Spanish for “did you page me?” is “mi bipiaste?”
    I know there is an upside-down question mark missing. I don’t know what it is in HTML.

  3. It’s iquest or #191 between & and ; (I use this as my ready reference).

  4. … du recycelst Plastik
    Wir resüseln Plastik auch.
    Using German’s own case markers and conjugations, of course, strikes me as the sensible thing to do, but why not also alter the spelling to make it more eingedeutscht?

  5. Surely it’s pronounced /risaikeln/ rather than /rezüzeln/? Germans usually make a point of preserving an approximation of the source pronunciation, and your eingedeutscht form strikes me as incomprehensible to speakers of both English and German.

  6. Yes, lh, it’s /risaikeln/. I think cannylinguist’s point was that considering how German keeps source pronunciations, they might as well keep a grammatical forms. It is fun, sometimes, to pretend otherwise, though.

  7. Oh, the comment above should be in the plural. That a snuck in somehow.

  8. I meant the bit about grammatical forms. There should be no a. And I know snuck had to be suppressed to win my coveted grammar god torc.

  9. Michael Farris says:

    wir resseikeln?
    hmmm, the ress- looks wrong somehow, I’d prefer rezeikeln but, of course no one says that, maybe receikeln?
    The problem is, I think, that respelling into German might make words fit more smoothly into German grammar, but it takes all the quien-es-mas-trendy? fun out of it. Following the endings of the source language seems like a road to nowhere fast though, taken to extremes, you’d get something like.
    ich recycle
    du recyclest
    er/sie recycles
    wir recycle
    ihr recycle
    sie recycle
    using an -ed past form though seems pointless since the vast majority of Germans will always devoice the final anyway.
    The same problem comes up in Polish too, though long term loans usually end up being polonized, though this can be upset if the loan violates traditional rules of phonology.
    When speaking English in Poland, I tend to use a fair amount of Polish words if there’s no good (for me) eqivalent, but plurals like
    pączkies (this should be pączeks, but the bastardized hibrid pączkies sounds better to me somehow)
    tend to strike people I know as the funniest thing they’ve ever heard pierogies, especially, cracks Poles up.

  10. An odd regional variation in anglicization: in the NYC region, everyone pronounces gyro (the Greek version of shawarma) as if it were an English word (like the first syllable of gyroscope); in the LA region, it keeps its Greek pronunciation /yiro/. When my brother visited me from California, he was aghast to hear me saying the former; when I gave in to his importunings and asked for “two yiros,” the Greek counterman hollered to the cook “Two JIE-ros!”

  11. LH: Surely /risaik@ln/ (or /rIsaikln/?) is the form (and for the 2nd. person singular /rIsaik@lst/). I was just wondering whether it might not be a good idea to germanize (is that term more comprehensible?) the spelling of the form borrowed into German to have it more closely reflect the (aimed-for) pronunciation. (My made-up /resyseln/ was poking fun at the converse case where you preserve the spelling and then read the word as you would when you encounter it without having heard it before and without knowing anything about its etymology.)

  12. Michael Farris says:

    I first learned about gyros the semester I moved to Gainesville, Fl where they had just hit in a big way, and I coincidentally began a year of modern Greek (since loooong forgotten). I noticed that very soon, both pronunciations were commonplace, I usually ended up asking for yeeros but the Greeks running a small restaurant I went to a lot always rhymed it with pyro. Both were later replaced by a third pronunciation, [Swarm@] when a Lebanese-owned micro-chain started serving the best gyros (not to mention baklava) in town.

  13. otaflegr says:

    Michael Farris´ mention of Polish is well suited in this context–it always strikes me how many (quite common) words in Polish resemble their English counterparts with the only exception they are inflected “in the Polish manner”. Words like decyz-ja (decision), z-decyd-owac (to decide), za-propon-owac (to propone -> to propose), ofer-ta (offer), ofer-owac (to offer), have original, Slavic equivalents in other Slavic languages (Russian, Slovak, Czech as far as I know). The point is that it seems very strange to me how often I hear words in Polish that I would rather expect in a Latinicized West European language.
    (Russian and Czech equivalent to the above Polish example are: decision – CZ rozhodnuti – RU reshenye, to propose, to offer – CZ nabidnout – RU predlozhit, oferta – CZ nabidka – RU predlozhenye)

  14. cannylinguist: Ah, didn’t catch your joke. Sorry.

  15. otaflegr, Poland is 90% (or more) catholic country, and has centuries of history of religious education in Latin, so I don’t find it surprising to find Latin and Greek- stem words in Polish.
    Double reverse examples of New York Russian: used car= yuzanaya mashina (correct Russian: poderzhannaya machina), to rent an apartment= rentovat’ kvartiru (correct Russian – snyat’ kvartiru v arendu). Last example’s even more interesting, since “arenda” is itself a borrowed word (I think from French), but has such long historic usage that it doesn’t appears foreign.

  16. Great examples, and the last one is particularly nice because not only is arenda, as you say, a loan word—it’s borrowed from Polish! (According to Vasmer.) The Polish word is connected somehow with Late Latin arrenda, which Vasmer says is derived from reddere ‘give back; pay, discharge (a debt).’ But the etymology of English rent has a more likely-looking etymon: “Middle English rente, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *rendita, from feminine past participle of *rendere, to yield, return.”

  17. Wow, I miss a couple days here, and look what sprouts! That should teach me. But I have always pronounced the sandwich as a ‘hero’ (though I know that also refers to a long white bread roll that is distinctly unGreek) – is there no basis for that?

  18. I’m afraid you’ve simply conflated two sandwich names. But keep using that version and who knows — you may be the proud originator of a language change!

  19. Sie haben den Matrix upgedatet!

Speak Your Mind