A Linguistic Shitstorm

by Tracy R. Walsh

Anglicisms play a major role in modern German:

The liberal salting of English words into German sentences is called “Denglisch” (Deutsch and Englisch), and it tends to annoy traditionalists. … What Brits call a mobile and Americans call a cell phone, Germans call a Handy—a word that looks borrowed from English, but isn’t. The baseball cap—a common faux-hip ornament in today’s Germany—is a Basecap. And Germans call table football Kicker, a game unknown in the English-speaking world. (The mangling goes both ways, as Americans alter the German Fussball to foosball.)

And when a rude word is borrowed, its taboo in the original language does not always travel with it. Angela Merkel is just one of many Germans who don’t realize that you can’t just casually uses the word Shitstorm in a press conference. The word has become common enough to be added to Germany’s most prestigious dictionary, the Duden.

Update from a reader:

With regard to the use of false Anglicisms in German, you missed my very favorite one: in German, a compulsive hoarder is called a “Messie”. Like this: “Der Mann ist ein Messie” (“that man’s a hoarder”).