Denglish, according to Wikpedia, is a term “used in all German-speaking countries to refer to the increasingly strong influx of English or pseudo-English vocabulary into German.” In its simplest form, Denglish involves replacing some German words with their English equivalents, so someone might say “Ich habe die Files gedownloadet” instead of “Ich habe die Dateien heruntergeladen”. Here, there are perfectly good German words, the speaker just chooses not to use them for some reason.
In other cases, either an English word has replaced the original German to such an extent that most people don’t even know the real German word any more or there never was a German word in the fist place (e.g. der Browser for an Internet broswer) – usually this occurs with new technology that exists in an English-speaking country before it ever comes to Germany. Sometimes (as with the technologies), Denglish involves real English words, used in their correct context. Other times the words Germans use may sound English, but nobody really knows where they came from… or English words have been taken and used in an entirely different context. Mostly, this practice is harmless (although it can get confusing when a German starts speaking to an English native speaker using Denglish words!), but sometimes this practice of insisting on using English words at all costs can be very, very amusing. Here are some Denglish words and phrases that you may hear if you happen to find yourself in Germany…
We’ll start with the most common. In German, a Handy (pronounced Hendy) is a mobile phone. While a small, portable phone is admittedly pretty handy, I’ve no idea how the phrase came about! I have, however, been asked in English “Do you have a handy?”. Needless to say, if I didn’t actually speak German I would have had no idea what they wanted! And just to make things even more confusing, the Swiss don’t use the word Handy! (Their word for mobile phone is Natel).
This was one of the first Denglish words I heard when I came to Germany, and I had no idea what they were talking about. From the context, it was clear that they didn’t mean a car which would be spelled Beemer anyway), but what did they mean? After being shown the object in question, it all became clear. A Beamer is a projector! I suppose it does beam images onto a screen, so it makes sense in a way…
Nope, not what you do with an orange. Shower scrub or body scrub. I really, really hope this doesn’t do what it says on the tin…
To English speakers, a city is a large town… London, Paris, Rome, Sydney… all cities. (Well, in certain circles London is The City, but that’s irrelevant here). Not so in Germany… here “die City” is merely part of a large town. The bit that we would call the city centre, or down town. So don’t be confused if you see signs pointing you towards “City” when you think you’ve already entered the city you were aiming for. It’s just the Germans messing with English again! (For fairness’ sake, I should add that lots of places do still use the German words Zentrum (centre) or Stadtmitte (town/city centre) on their official signs.)
While Germans used to get together to watch sporting events “auf Großleinwand” (on a big screen), in recent years the term Public Viewing has become more popular. This year, Karlsruhe even had Public Viewing at the football stadium for Germany matches! The only problem is that, in British English at least, public viewing traditionally refers to the practice of leaving a deceased person in an open coffin during the wake, so that the public could come and have alook/pay their last respects (this is also known as lying in state and was done when the Queen Mother died, for example).
This one technically goes back to a brand name, but I had to include it because it’s just too amusing! I’m sure well all know that an English body bag is something used for storing and transporting corpses. In Germany, meanwhile, since the mid-90s the term Bodybag has been used to refer to a type of bag that’s worn on the back with a strap going diagonally across the front. (A messenger bag is a type of “Bodybag”, but I’ve also seen some that look like a backpack but with only one strap). Somebody at whichever company started this trend obviously didn’t do their research properly…
There are, of course, other Denglish expressions, but these are the only ones I’m going to go into for now. If you have a favourite Denglish expression (or even something similar in another language) please feel free to let me know in the comments!