Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Germish, also referred to as Denglisch, Engleutsch, Genglish or Ginglish is a jumble of English terms embedded within a grammatically German sentence (or vice versa). It is spoken in all German-speaking countries and owes its existence in part to the cultural predominance of English language pop music and international computer slang. Due to lack of rules for proper declension and conjugation forms, English words within Germish will almost always come out in some twisted form. You might well hear things like:

"Ich musste den Computer neu booten, weil die Software gecrasht ist" (I had to reboot the computer because the software crashed)
from native German speakers.

As with other pidgins, the adaptation also takes the other route, where literal translations from popular English expression slowly but insistently swamp out the correct German words and idioms. Sometimes this makes for funny, if perfectly comprehensible new expressions:

"Das macht Sinn" (That makes sense) - formerly: "Das ergibt Sinn" (roughly: That results in something sensible)
"Ich erinnere, dass..." (I remember that...) - standard form: "Ich erinnere mich, dass..." (roughly: I make myself remember that...)
"Oh, Hölle!" (Oh, hell!) - previously nonexistent exclamation, used tongue-in-cheek and not as a real curse
"Dieser verfickte Computer" (This computer) - very informal, used by people who know their idiomatic English.
"Nicht wirklich" (Not really) - a neophyte to German colloquial expressions. Considered mildly witty.

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 respective meaning in English.

Table of contents
1 Involuntary blunders
2 Arbitrary Denglisch
3 Weblinks

Involuntary blunders

Of course, a decent type of Denglisch can also result from English-speaking people trying to converse in German. The unrivalled master of to-the-point German, Kurt Tucholsky, gave a parody of possible mishaps:
"Wären Sie so kindlich meine Briefmarke am Hintern anzulecken?"
Literally: "Would you be so childish as to lick my stamps bottom?" whereas the intended meaning could have been: "Would you be so kind as to lick the backside of my postal stamp?" (arguably a rather contrived example). Here, the two prominent linguistic accidents are the notorious false friends (de:kind->en:child) (en:backside->de:hintern->en:bottom).

The reverse also works, sort of, as can allegedly sometimes be heard from Germans in a fast-food restaurant:

"I become a hamburger!"
Derives its humor from the fact that the similar word to "bekommen" - "get, obtain" is "become", in German "werden". So what the customer actually wanted to express was his/her wish to get served a Big Mac.

Machine translations

Even when the desired effect is not comical, automatic literal translations of idioms or idiomatic language like those produced by AltaVista's babel fish can result in language that will most probably sound hilarious. Take the sentence from the German Wikipedia for instance:
de:Bitte beachten Sie, dass alle Beiträge zur Wikipedia automatisch unter der "GNU Freie Dokumentationslizenz" stehen.
Falls Sie nicht möchten, dass Ihre Arbeit hier von anderen verändert und verbreitet wird, dann drücken Sie nicht auf "Speichern".

en:Please note that all contributions to Wikipedia are considered to be released under the GNU Free Documentation License
If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then don't submit it here.)

Babelfish's translation from German to English (currently) is this:
Please you note that all contributions stand automatically to the Wikipedia under the "GNU free documentation license".
If you did not like that your work is changed here and spread by others, then you press not on "memory".
For completeness, here is the result of going from English to German:
Merken Sie bitte, daß alle Beiträge zu Wikipedia betrachtet werden, unter der GNU frei Unterlagen Lizenz freigegeben zu werden,
wenn Sie Ihr Schreiben gnadenlos redigiert werden und nicht am Willen neuverteilt werden wünschen, dann einreichen ihn nicht hier.
This is funny. Trust me.

Arbitrary Denglisch

Of course, this approach to a sort of interlingua can also be taken to the extremes, like in this long-famous warning sign where the influence of the German tongue is now restricted to parts of the spelling and partial literal back translations which results in a faint impression of a German computer admin trying to make himself understood:
ATTENTION!  This room is fullfilled mit special electronishe equippment.
Fingergrabbling and pressing the cnoeppkes from the Computermashine is
allowed for the experts only!  So all lefthanders stay away and do not
disturben the brainstorming von here working intelligencies.  Otherwise
you will be outthrown and kicked elsewhere.  Also: please keep still and
only watchen astaunished the shufting operator!

-- the experts

Advertising language

There seems to be a common notion that English substitutes for plain German words somehow make phrases sound more enganging and technically top-notch. German commercials or - more often - written ads thus are likely to overuse English terms:
Mit  können Sie Klingeltöne, Logos und Spiele direkt aufs Handy downloaden.
Wählen Sie aus Tausenden coolen Sounds, aktuellen Games und hippen Logos.

Just as a reminder: "Handy" is the
pseudo-English word for "mobile phone".

Truly marvelous inventions can be found in the field of body care:

Double Action Waschgel
Vitalisierendes Peeling
Energy Creme Q10
Oil Control Gel Creme
Oil Control Waschgel

Even some of the traditionally conservative companies tend to adopt neologisms that they consider to sound more international than their original German counterparts. Thus, the venerable "Deutsche Bahn AG" (German Rail) did not mind calling their information booths/stands "service points". The word "Kundendienst" (customer service), in contrast, has almost completely fallen out of use now (probably, because it actually sounds like more of an effort to German ears than the rather noncommital "service").