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Denglisch Slang

Denglisch Slang

Germanization of English words

Due to lack of rules for proper declension and conjugation forms, English words within Denglisch will have a flexion added to them, so they often come out in some twisted form. One may hear from native German speakers:

Ich musste den Computer neu booten, weil die Software gecrasht ist.
I had to reboot the computer because the software crashed.
Hast du schon die neueste Mozillaversion downgeloadet / gedownloadet?
Have you already downloaded the newest version of Mozilla?.

Such use of language is not restricted to colloquial German only: The German version of Microsoft Windows XP will inform the user of the fact that it is currently downloading updates with the words:

Updates werden gedownloadet: 16 %,
even though the same can easily be expressed in uncompromised standard German:

Aktualisierungen werden heruntergeladen,
avoiding any linguistic confusion.

Twisting of German idioms and grammar rules

The adaptation also takes the other route, where literal translations from popular English expressions slowly but insistently swamp out the correct German words and idioms. Widespread examples of this evolution are:

* Was passierte in 2005? (What happened in 2005?)
Formally: "Was passierte 2005?" or "Was passierte im Jahr 2005?" Although this usage is considered wrong by most native speakers and it is forbidden by the official German grammar, it can be found even in German newspapers.

These phrasings may have originated from English-language movies and other media translated literally into German, but they have made it into everyday language.

Some of those constructs will only be found in youth language, where it has become common, for example, to talk about coole Events which captures almost, but not quite, the same meaning as the respective English phrase.

Involuntary and voluntary blunders

Another example of Denglisch's potential for causing confusion is the German use of the word body bag (meaning, in English, a bag in which the body of a dead soldier is placed) for "backpack" – even though the genuinely German word Rucksack is a perfectly acceptable synonym of "backpack" in many varieties of English.

A 'correct' Denglisch sentence can always be built by simply combining English and German words:

You kannst not have das da 'cause it is too teuer für me.

Which actually means:

You cannot get that because it is too expensive for me. Du kannst das nicht haben, weil es mir zu teuer ist.

This is mostly done for comic effect by adults fluent in both languages, but can also be heard from bilingual infants who have moved beyond the "babbling" stage. Children, searching for the appropriate expression, will often use the first to come to mind, regardless of language. The distinguishing feature of such speech is its grammatical correctness - which is not ensured when adults try the same.

During the 1990s, younger people comfortable speaking English would sometimes replace the main word of their sentence with the English equivalent:

  »  Example: "Hey, der wird ja richtig enthusiastic."
    * In English: "Hey, he's getting really enthusiastic."
    * In "proper" German: "Hey, der begeistert sich ja richtig (dafür)." or "Hey, der wird ja richtig enthusiastisch."
  »  Example: "Es war einfach unbelievable."
    * English: "It was simply unbelievable."
    * German: "Es war einfach unglaublich."
To the youth of today this sounds rather ridiculous.

German and English often use the same preposition for describing abstract actions or concepts. However, this is not always the case. For example, native English speakers are reminded of something, whereas native German speakers are reminded on something. But a Denglisch speaker may directly translate a preposition without respect for such subtlety. Thus, incorrect sentences such as these may be constructed:

  »  That reminds me on a book.
  »  Das erinnert mich an ein Buch.


Some German words look and sound like anglicisms, but do not actually exist in English, or have a different meaning. Examples include:

List of Pseudo-anglicisms in German

German word Meaning (in German)
Back Shop "Bakery" from backen (to bake)
Beamer video projector
Body Bag rucksack, backpack, waist bag, "bum bag" or "fanny pack"
Body tight fitting article of women's clothing worn during working-out
Box (plural Boxen) Stereo speaker
catchen professional wrestling
checken to understand (also commonly used with the English meaning 'to check (on)'
Dressman (male) model
Evergreen golden oldie
Funeralmaster funeral director, undertaker
Gigfaking Kids putting on a mock show (karaoke) in front of a Webcam
Handy mobile phone, cell phone
Job floater fixed-income bond (in conjunction with unemployment countermeasures)
Looser loser, with the 'o' sound exaggerated for effect
Oldtimer vintage or classic car, or aircraft
Peeling facial or body scrub
Pullunder sleeveless pullover, slipover
Shooting star rising star
Slip briefs, knickers, panties
Smoking tuxedo, dinner jacket
Showmaster TV show host
Steptanz Tap dance
Talkmaster talk-show host
Twen twenty-something
Ego-Shooter instead of First-Person-Shooter (FPS)
Jump ’n’ run instead of Platform game