Friday, March 23, 2007

Voltronese: The Germans Fight Back

Kuala Lumpur Chris sends me further news of the progress of Voltronese - English for the globalised, wired, wireless, online, distracted, spoilt and, of course, doomed world. The Germans, it seems, are as alarmed as the French used to be at English's creeping annexation of their language. In particular, they have been fighting the use of the word 'spam' to mean not 'luncheon meat' - a phrase that brings back my childhood in an instant and always make me wonder whatever happened to 'luncheon' - but dodgy emails. There seems to have been some kind of competition to find a German replacement with 'kaufkitzel', meaning something like 'tickle to buy', and 'knacksatz', untranslatable it seems, being strong contenders. But the winner is 'spruch' meaning slogan or saying or, I think, some kind of babble. 'Heidi, my mailbox is full of spruch!' Yeah, it kind of works. Chris also points out that the German word for a mobile phone is a 'handy', which, curiously, is an English word but not an English usage. However, I think the correct Voltronese word should be the Israeli 'pelephone', which means 'magic phone'. I like that.


  1. Chris further adds:

    'You see 'Service Points' everywhere in Germany: especially at railway stations. I assume they are considered scandalous by those fighting against English Creep.

    "The fight against Anglicisms will go down in history as another ineffectual attempt by a 'terrified bourgeoisie' to delay its world's demise."

    Yet more detail:

    *English Influences on German*
    But many well-educated Germans shudder at what they view as the "bad"
    influences of English in today's German. Dramatic proof of this tendency
    can be seen in the popularity of Bastian Sick's humorous bestselling
    book entitled /Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod/ ("the dative [case]
    will be the death of the genitive"). Sick's 2004 bestseller (another
    English word used in German) points out the deterioration of the German
    language ("Sprachverfall"), caused in part by bad English influences.
    The success of the first book brought about two sequels: /Folgen 2 und
    3/, Parts 2 and 3, "Neues/Noch mehr aus dem Irrgarten der deutschen
    Sprache" ("new things/even more from the German-language maze").

    Although not all of German's problems can be blamed on Anglo-American
    influences, many of them can. It is in the areas of business and
    technology in particular that the invasion of English is most pervasive.
    A German business person may attend /einen Workshop/ (der) or go to /ein
    Meeting/ (das) where there's /eine Open-End-Diskussion/ about the
    company's /Performance/ (die). He or she reads Germany's popular
    /Manager-Magazin/ (das) in order to learn how to /managen/ the
    /Business/ (das). At their /Job/ (der) many people work /am Computer/
    (der) and visit /das Internet/ by going /online/.

    While there are perfectly good German words for all of the "English"
    words above, they just aren't "in" (as they say in German, or "Deutsch
    ist out."). A rare exception is the German word for computer, /der
    Rechner/, which enjoys parity with /der Computer/ (first invented by the
    German Conrad Zuse
    But other areas beside business and technology (advertising,
    entertainment, movies and television, pop music, teen slang, etc.) are
    also riddled with Denglisch and Neudeutsch. German-speakers listen to
    /Rockmusik/ (die) on a CD (/pronounced/ say-day) and watch movies on a
    DVD (day-fow-day).'

  2. This is the same hopeless battle that the French have been fighting. It is futile of course, since language evolves on its own and cannot be legislated against, but at least the French have a just cause: they have a deeply soulful language.

    The Germans should be welcoming Voltronisation, since their lingo is entirely soulless (which is why the great Germans spoke in a different language - that of music.)

    If the Germans only had a langauage that could convey humour, the 20th century might have been slightly less appalling.

  3. There are German businesses (in Germany) where English is the lingua franca. Is it simply a matter of showing off how cosmopolitan one is (as English people do when they use the odd soi-disant French phrase) in an otherwise quite provincial society (see the German press)or, is it a case of demonstrating how post-national Germany has become? Actually, German has always had a lot of loan-words (eg Trottoir) from when Frederick the Great set the fashion for speaking French (using German only to bark orders at servants) and from the substantial Huguenot presence in Berlin (see the city's telephone book). Come to think of it, wouldn't it bee nice (Russian style) to go back to the days when the educated upper classes spoke another language? We could have entire TV channels in French, Italian or German (or maybe Mandarin) and then PLEB TV consisting of charmless morons buying houses in Bulgaria and Slovakia or being chased by the Polizei around Cardiff housing estates. Just a dark thought.

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