« Three cheers for Australia | Main | The End of the German Language? »

August 25, 2006

Achtung! Vorsicht, bissiger Denglisch!

It seems the the media "silly season" knows no national boundaries. The big story in the German press at present is the one raised by the German cultural purists - the German equivalent of the French "Academie Francaise" - are seriously worried by the ongoing rise of the use of Denglisch by German speakers in everyday speech. Denglisch is a hybrid of English and German words and includes things like "brainstorm", "surfen", "chatten" and "shoppen"! It seems that German is absorbing English words and simply "Germanising" them at quite a rate.

Amusingly, according to Mausi, the purists are proclaiming that "this Anglisisation of German, threatens the language of Goethe." For those of us bored out of our heads by having to read Goethe's Faust (a poem in German) as prose in English, this is amusing - largely because, Goethe never wrote in "Hochdeutsch" or Modern German - he used the dialect of his home State and city - Frankfurt-am-Main! And there are arguments raging over the actual meaning of some of the phrases he used because they could mean different things in Hochdeutsch, the classic example being his last utterance in this life, which, if transfered into modern German can have two entirely different meanings.

In his own time, Goethe's work would probably have been only partly comprehensible to anyone from a different region, much as Shakespeare's language would have made difficult hearing to the commoner in the North East or some of the other parts of Britain with a strong regional dialect. We tend to forget that our language has evolved dramatically in the last two hundred years or so primarily as a result of greater mobility among the workforce and the opening up of the world to interchange of language and ideas from "foreign" countries. Television and radio have certainly played a huge part in this, as has the cinema. I am still amazed by the command of English held by people I meet in Eastern Europe and more recently in Scandinavia and other "non-English" countries, yet their languages are rarely heard outside of their own nations.

I must say that reading this took me back to a wonderful spoof column in a monthly magazine my mother used to buy, entitled "Mein Grossvader's Fabletellen". This used a sort of pidgin German to poke fun at everyday occurences and attitudes of the period, thus a motorist was labelled "ein Honkentootenscreechenraumer" and a pedestrian became "ein Honkentootenscreechenraumferleapendodger"! And there were many more such examples. My favourite spoof pidgin notice begins: -

Achtung! Alles looken peepers! Das maschein ist nicht für gefingerpoken und mitten grabben! Ist easy schnappen das springenwerken mit spitzensparken und poppenkorken!

I must say that I find the whole rather amusing - although if I were a German I would probably be a little concerned - because, as my German friends have frequently reminded me, English is only really rather badly pronounced and grammatically incorrect German (with a few French, Latin and Dutch words sprinkled in!). But now it seems that German is slowly becoming badly pronounced English - with German grammar! there has to be a joke in there somewhere - it will just be a question as to whether it is a Cornish Jethro and a Bayernische Didi who gets to it first!

Posted by The Gray Monk at August 25, 2006 07:57 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: