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It’s open to debate whether this is really an English word, though it has been seen in a number of English-language publications in recent months, because it was actually coined in German. Its first letter comes from Deutsch, the German for German, plus Englisch, the German for English (it is sometimes anglicised to Denglish). It refers to the hybrid German-English fashionable speech of younger Germans, heavily influenced in particular by American English.

It’s perhaps only to be expected that computerese such as e-mail and homepage are standard. Outside computing, you may encounter task force, party, shopping, goalgetter, and sales among many others. On German railways, you will find service points, ticket counters and lounges.

Many Germans have been angered by what they see as the linguistic imperialism of such imports. Some, such as Eckart Werthebach, the regional interior minister in Berlin, have called for a language purification law to ban them; others have suggested an Academy for the Cultivation and Protection of the German Language, like the Académie Française. What annoys them especially is the way that English words infiltrate otherwise normal German sentences. An example was a notice seen at a German airport: “Mit dem stand-by-upgrade-Voucher kann das Ticket beim Check-in aufgewertet werden”.

Denglish joins a variety of other words of similar kind, such as Japlish, Chinglish (Chinese), Konglish (Korean), Russlish, Hinglish (Hindi), Spanglish, Polglish (Polish), Dunglish (Dutch), Singlish (Singaporean English) and Swenglish (Swedish), not to mention Franglais, of course.

This movement wants to impose hefty fines on any German caught using the bastardised tongue known as “Denglisch”.

Observer, Mar. 2001

Werthebach’s plan has sparked a national debate over whether the language of the printing pioneer Johann Gutenberg and poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe is in danger of being diluted into the German-English mixture now known as Denglisch.

Reuters, Mar. 2001

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 7 Apr. 2001

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-den1.htm
Last modified: 7 April 2001.