By Linda Roper

English Swear Word in German DudenWhen you’re listening to Germans it is very common that you might stumble over some familiar English words.  It is surprising how many words are actually “loanwords” from the English language. This month was the first time that an English swear word entered the serious world of German dictionaries, after it became Germany’s Anglicism of the year in 2011.

The word “s— storm” was first used in Germany in 2010 on social media platforms and it really gained popularity when German chancellor Angela Merkel incorporated it into one of her conversations with David Cameron. During his visit in Berlin in 2012 the German Chancellor and the British Prime Minister talked about the financial crisis in southern Europe which she referred to as having a “s—storm” to deal with.

Over the past few decades more and more English words made their way into the German everyday language. It is especially interesting – and sometimes also very amusing-  when English words have two different meanings.  A classic example is the word “handy”. German people use it to refer to their mobile phones. When you ask an English person if you can borrow their “handy” they look at you very puzzled and don’t have a a clue what you are talking about.

The word “s—storm” also has a different meaning in an English and a German conversation. The Duden, the German equivalent to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), defines it in his 26th edition as “Noun, masculine –a storm of protest in a communications medium of the internet, associated in part with insulting remarks”.  In the OED it is defined as “Noun, vulgar slang – a situation marked by violent controversy”.

All in all, over 5,000 new words were included in the latest edition of the Duden which was released the beginning of July. Amongst the new words are the words “facebook” “app” and “e-book reader”.  According to a Duden spokesman, the dictionary didn’t include them in the last update in 2009 because they wanted to make sure that they “stick around”. This shows how sensitive the topic of Anglicism in the German language is. In the opinion of Burkhard Mueller, a German radio presenter, it is “considered fashionable to acknowledge these multi-cultural linguisms, as it distances yourself from the reek of German chauvinism”.   And the famous German poet Johan Wolfgang once said: “He who doesn’t know foreign languages, doesn’t know his own.”

Which German words do you use in your everyday English?  Have you come across any other English words used in a German conversation?

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