Denglisch

by classickbene

Amerikanisierung. Der Untergang des Abendlandes. We’re all living in America, Coca Cola, wonderbra. Or something like this. (By the way, it’s “du hast” = “you have” and not “du hasst” = “you hate.”) Germans are pessimists (or realists?) anyway and feel insecure about their Kultur, so it is kein Wunder (no wonder) that they have been spawning Kulturpessismisten—another one of these compound words that the world surely envies (or belittles?) us for. Being a pessimist about culture. Germany had its own culture wars in the late 1800s (although this Kulturkampf was fought by a Don Quixote named Bismarck who feared windmills called Papists); a couple of brown-uniformed Herren afraid of everything Other tried to preserve “German” culture—and we know how that ended. This was followed by demilitarization, denazification, and democratization, thanks to American occupation, I mean, liberation of course, who gave away jazz music and Hershey chocolate for free—until West Germans had the funds to buy American products, thanks to Mr. Marshall’s plan of how to keep the Western Europeans from going communist and thereby helping the German economic miracle of the 1950s, the Wirtschaftswunder. But despite the real improvements (well, the political system of the Bundesrepublik is a strange mixture of the American, British, and French, but it seems to work; I also believe it is better to read books than to burn them) that the U.S. gave the Federal Republic of Germany, fears of the negative aspects of American culture have prevailed until today.

Amerika has no real culture, nor history for that matter. No medieval castles (Anglophones do not even differentiate between Burg and Schloss!) or remnants of Roman villas. Americans are the bastard children of the scum of Europe that could not make it in the Heimat (although General Patton would beg [or command?] to differ, were he still alive—to him, the real bastards stayed in Europe and their offspring were Nazis and Italian fascists that deserved to die). So what could THEY offer the heirs of Schiller and Goethe, Mozart and Schubert, Dürer and—well, the Weltkriegsgefreite with the funny moustache might not be an appropriate candidate for a great artist … McDonald’s makes German children (and the Unterschicht, or lower class) fat, and drinking Coca Cola destroys their teeth. Just ask the ARD (or “first German TV station,” funded through tax money) Markencheck TV program, shown Mondays at primetime. And Hollywood? Only gewaltätige (violent) Rambos and Terminators. Or trying to remake European movies and making them worse. Or, even worse, mainstream and not artsy-fartsy. American music? Jungle music, this “rap.” Or so the Kulturpessimisten say.

And then: using English allerorten, everywhere. It is not a Besprechung anymore, it is a “meeting.” One does not stay ruhig anymore, but bleibt “cool.” But you know what is actually and truly worse? Denglisch, “English” words invented by Germans that real Anglophones do not understand. It is not a cell phone, it is a Handy. The host of a talk show? The Talkmaster. Or mixing German and English in one clause—usually not a whole sentence—and especially in commerce. Kaffee to go. Or even worse, in my view, using English expressions translated in German sentences. Back in the day, nobody used to say “In 1996 habe ich dieses und jenes gemacht.” You just said “1996 habe ich dieses und jenes gemacht.” Eine sich selbst erfüllende Prophezeiung (self-fulfilling prophecy), I guess. If you want to incorporate something from a different language, do it right. And not worse. All those with a slightly better command of the English language, especially native speakers, will be extremely grateful (but maybe also bereft of some laughs).

In the 17th century, there were some “German” (no “Germany” existed at the time) intellecutals who wanted to preserve the “German” language from the detrimental effect of the all-intrusive French. Nase? Too French. Let’s call it Gesichtserker! (An Erker is the funny window protruding from a wall on some older German houses … So who said Germans cannot condense complicated explanations in one word? If I had written that an Erker is an “oriel,” you would have looked it up yourself in your Oxford dictionary yourself …) I wonder what they would say to the fact that today’s lingua franca is actually a lingua britannica

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