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Denglish also Denglisch

noun [uncountable]

a variety of German featuring a large number of borrowings from English

Denglish also Denglisch


'After several misguided years of using bad English to woo customers, German advertisers have apparently rediscovered their own language. It may not help ailing retailers much, but limiting silly Denglish is long overdue.'

Deutsche Welle 15th November 2004

'… while many English words introduced into German have the same meaning as they do in English, many do not … For me, there are three Denglish words that come to mind as the greatest offenders and they are das Handy, das Mobbing, and der Smoking.'

Expatica.com July 2006

In towns and cities across Germany, it's not unusual to hear Germans slipping English words and expressions into their everyday language. Germans might talk about going shoppen (shopping) or attending a meeting at the office, they might downloaden (download) software, go online to chatten (chat), or complain that their PC has gecrasht (crashed). And as they walk along the city streets, they might pass department stores advertising a sale, enter music stores with coolen Sounds, or purchase products such as Double Action Waschgel. This is the phenomenon of Denglish, a persistent infiltration of English words and expressions into the German language.

as well as borrowing English words, sometimes Denglish adopts them and gives them a new meaning

Denglish is, of course, a direct consequence of the influence of English as a global language, nowadays not just through conventional media such as TV, radio and the press, but also through the Internet as an integral part of everyday life. Here, Germans are just as likely to see words such as home page rather than Startseite, or download rather than herunterladen. As well as borrowing English words directly, sometimes Denglish adopts English expressions and gives them a new meaning, so that for instance the Denglish term Handy is not used like the English adjective but is, in fact, a noun referring to a mobile phone (though mobile phones are 'handy' of course, so there's some logical connection).

English has had a particular influence in the world of advertising, based on the notion that English substitutes for German words make phrases sound more engaging and up-to-date. It has influenced corporate business too, with companies such as Deutsche Bank conducting much of its affairs either in English or with significant use of English terminology. Germany's former state monopoly telephone company Deutsche Telekom was at one point listing national phone calls on its bills as German Calls and local ones as City Calls.

However, though the use of English as a lingua franca, especially in the business domain, is generally accepted, the arbitrary use of English words in everyday German is becoming a controversial issue. In recent months, the German Conservative party CSU (Christian Social Union) has called for the language to be protected in the country's constitution by a 'linguistic law', which would keep the infiltration of English words at bay. German advertisers are beginning to respond, with even quintessentially American companies like McDonald's reverting from the slogan Every Time a Good Time to Ich liebe es (a German translation of its US slogan I'm lovin' it).

Background – Denglish

The word Denglish is a blend of the German word Deutsch, and English. It is also often spelt Denglisch, incorporating Englisch, the German translation of English. An anglicised variant which is sometimes used is Germish, a blend of German and English.

Denglish is one of a number of similar portmanteau expressions which describe language varieties based on, or heavily influenced by English. These include Chinglish (Chinese/English), Singlish (a mixture of English, Malay and Chinese dialects), Hinglish (Hindi/English) and Spanglish (Spanish/English).

If you'd like to read more about the influence of English on the German language, check out this article. If you're interested in how new English words are borrowed by other languages, read this.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 14 August 2006.

Open Dictionary


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