July 16, 2012

A Writer's Life - Would you like some German with that?

If you look close enough while reading a book in the English language I'm sure you've noticed that sometimes words pop up that aren't, well, English. Personally I always have to smile when I read and come across a German word in an English text, because ... somehow it's neat, that's all. It even makes me contemplate maybe using this or that German word when I'm writing in English myself. A Kindergarten here, some Schadenfreude there, you get the idea.

Copyright by Papa Scott

So yes, evidently English has borrowed quite a number of words from German. Some have become a natural part of everyday English vocabulary (oh look, a  Kindergarten), while others are more of the intellectual or literary kind (the good old Zeitgeist). Last but not least there are those words for which there is no true English equivalent (such as Schadenfreude).

I thought you might want to learn a bit more on this subject, so here's a short run down of words that will (for the most part anyway) have become familiar to the attentive reader.

Angst
"fear" or more precisely a neurotic feeling of anxiety and depression

Autobahn
"freeway"

Doppelgänger
literally this translates to "double goer" (which is just plain weird) - what it refers to is a ghostly double, look-alike, or clone of a person

Ersatz
a replacement or substitute, usually implying inferiority to the original

Fest
"celebration"

Gemütlichkeit
an atmosphere of cozy comfort, warm cordiality

Gesundheit
"health" (in German we use the word when someone sneezes and you say "bless you")

Reich
"empire, realm" this word is usually used in reference to the "Third Reich"

Rucksack
"back pack"

Strudel
a type of pastry made with thin layers of dough, rolled up with a fruit filling

Of course these are just a handful of examples of which I'm quite certain you've heard some before.

What about German then? Any English loan words here? You bet. Quite a lot of English expressions have sneaked into "my language", words that are often referred to as so-called Denglish.

Here's a little taste of words you may stumble across in German texts: Airbag, Blogger (ha, gotta love that one), Camping, Display, Fastfood, Gentleman, High-heels, Job, Online, Party, Smalltalk, Ticket, Update, and ... wait for it ... Zombie.
Again, that's naming just a few of numerous English words which many of us aren't even aware of being substitutes for German words. In most cases we do have German words for something, but we are using the English ones instead, and quite naturally too. Need an example? We call Babies also "Baby", while the German word for it is "Säugling".

How about yourself? Any favorite German words you've found in English texts? Any surprises about the English words we are mixing with the German language? Let me know.

1 comment:

  1. I don't speak German, so I was kinda happy to understand all but three words you mentioned (Gemütlichkeit, Gesundheit und Ersatz). I guess this has something to do with the Austro-Hungarian occupation since other words are a part of my dialect. :)

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