Germans are falling for the same trap as the Japanese: Importing words from English and changing the meaning, but the Germans do it even though the words didn’t need to be imported at all

Languages borrow from each other all the time. English has historically been a happy perpetrator of word-theft, but in recent decades, it has been serving as the source for a lot of theft, too. What I find particularly interesting, though, is when a word is borrowed and given a meaning in its new language different from its meaning in the source language.

Japanese is famous for this, For example, they take the English phrase white shirt and import it as waishatsu, which means not white shirt but dress shirt.

In Swedish, the phenomenon of importing English into Swedish is known as svengelska, a blend of svenska and engelska. The Swedes use the faux-English term service-mind to mean dedication to customer service. I find this interesting because they just took some English words and combined them in a way not used in English at all. And as you can see from the citation, it seems that there are some who are under the mistaken impression that we use the word in English, too.

One thing that disturbs me is when a word is imported into a language even though there is already a perfectly good word for the concept. Many years ago, my aunt (who at the time was a Japanese teacher) went to Japan and sat down in a restaurant. She looked over the menu looking for the beverages and couldn't find it. She asked the waiter where the beverage section was, and the waiter directed her to the section titled dorinku. The Japanese have imported the word dorinku from the English word drink, displacing the traditional Japanese word (which I believe is nomimono, but I could be wrong). My aunt was looking for the traditional Japanese word and couldn't find it.

The award, however, for using faux English terms, goes to the Germans and Denglisch, the term for the blending of Deutsch and Englisch. Unsatisfied with the perfectly good German word Rucksack, which means backpack, some marketing geniuses decided to adopted the English word body bag instead. This is wrong on so many levels. First of all, it's the phenomenon of replacing a perfectly good native word with a loanword. Second, the English language imported the word rucksack from German. We borrowed the word from you. Feel free to borrow it back; it was yours originally! And third, the import is disturbingly incorrect. In English, a body bag is a bag for carrying corpses, what in German would be called a Leichensack.

This is a rather long and tedious set-up for my recent discovery. Apparently in Switzerland, the term for a light truck—not a semi-trailer but something that a family might own—is a Pickup, even though in English, the term pick-up is used only for a particular type of small truck.

Mind you, the English language is hardly innocent in the matter of importing a word while changing its meaning. For example, the prefix über- (or simply uber-) is used in English to mean ultimate or super. As a random example, I produce this citation for the word ubermom. Of course, this prefix is nonsensical to native speakers of German, since über merely means over or on top of. The German word Übermensch, was originally translated into English as superman, leading to the widespread misconception that Über must mean super.

Comments (73)
  1. JoelDillon says:

    Of course, super also originally meant ‘over or on top of’, from the Latin (as, for example, in superimposed). :)

  2. Andreas Magnusson says:

    As I’m the original author of the Swenglish comment Raymond took offense to I must be allowed to explain myself.

    I was young and probably fooled by the fact that Americans have imported this (unbeknownst to me) original Swedish idiom of service-minded into their own language. For example in this article in The Oregonian:

    My only excuse is that without a proper time line for each word it’s difficult to be aware and even less follow the English->Swedish->English transactions to correctly infer a words proper origin.

    [Parallel evolution. Service-minded means “with a mind toward service” but it exists only as an adjective, and it was a nonce word. -Raymond]
  3. Kyle says:

    Personally I prefer the term hapax legomenon instead of nonce.  It sounds so much more dignified.

    [I should’ve called it an ad hoc word, not a nonce word. -Raymond]
  4. laonianren says:

    My favourite loan word (because it means I never have to go without dessert) is pudding which became budín in Spanish and 布丁 (bùdīng) in Mandarin.

  5. keith says:

    English speakers really dropped the ball with "a la mode" –  does it mean fashionable/popular (which I always took as the discrete definition of mode in, for example, "mean, median and mode: average, midpoint, and most popular"), or with ice cream?

  6. Marcel says:

    A particular good example is the German word "Handy", which means "mobile phone". Almost nobody here knows that it means something completely different in English, most actually think we’ve simply adapted the English word for such a phone…

  7. Michael says:

    Bodybags (as opposed to body bags) are not rucksacks. They are oversized handbags with one strap worn on the shoulder. You may even be able to stuff a body in there.

    From my personal experience, Germans are freakin’ morons when it comes to imports from English. There’s also the Back Shop (complete with Deppenleerzeichen, i.e. a space where a hyphen or nothing at all should be), meaning bakery (Bäckerei is apparently not good enough) and the ubiquitous Sale! signs. A sizable number of Germans know enough French to know that it means “dirty.” Make of that what you will. But the paragon of fake English is still the word Handy.

    Apparently, Germans think their language is not cool (every Rammstein album should prove the opposite). Hence, they import “cool” English words, with an effect similar to that of a teen’s parents trying to adopt his jargon.

  8. edgar says:


    Pudding is loaned from the french word "boudin":

    Blood  sausage.

  9. Jim says:

    Another cool word American English borrowed from Chinese is kotow, it widely used in US but rarely in Canada?

  10. a la mode

    As Steve Carell’s character points out in Little Miss Sunshine (at Penny’s), "a la mode" means "in the fashion."  Mode derives from the Latin "modus," meaning "due or proper measure."

  11. Médinoc says:

    Another thing I’ve seen is English importing a particular sense of a French word:

    For example: “chef” means “chief” or “boss” in French. Which can sometimes be a chief cook.

    Same for “rendez-vous”, which in French can mean “appointment”, “meeting”, or “date”.

    [I think this is common for all imported words. When you import a word, you import a specific meaning of the word. (And this is probably what happened to a la mode. It was probaby used in a menu description in its original French sense, and the French fashion at the time was to serve the item with ice cream. People then assumed that “a la mode” meant “with ice cream”.) -Raymond]
  12. kog999 says:

    Is it just me or does service-mind seem like a good candidate for Micospeak. Meaning to be focused on your customers needs. As in "our customers really disliked vista so we need to have more of a service-mind for windows 7". or "Feature X is difficult to use, lets service-mind the interface to be more user friendly".

  13. random german speaker says:

    Another nice german example: During big sport events there are often areas that you can go to in order to see the event. Obviously nobody thought of looking into a dictionary before naming these areas where you can view the event in public "public viewing area".

  14. Someone You Know says:

    In English, we’ve imported the word "entree" (or, properly, "entrée") from French, with an incorrect and probably confusing meaning.

    In French this is the opening course of a meal (close to what Americans call an "appetizer") but in the U.S. it refers to the main course.

  15. GWO says:

    @SomeoneYouKnow: In French this is the opening course of a meal (close to what Americans call an "appetizer") but in the U.S. it refers to the main course.

    And of course, in England, it’s meaning is far closer to the French meaning, further confusing transatlantic travel(l)ers, even the anglophone ones.

  16. Daniel says:

    Marcel, Du wirst kaum abstreiten können (you can hardly deny) that a Handy is a very handy type of phone and being able to make a call comes in handy in many situations :)

  17. Anders says:

    I’m Swedish and I’ve never heard anyone use the word "service-mind". "Service minded" as an adjective is more popular than I’d like, but I’m unfamiliar with the use of it as a noun.

    A fairly recent trend with the kids is the use of the word lol. They can either say it as a separate word (instead of actually laughing) or as part of a sentence ("Jag lolade"). Most of them don’t know where it comes from or that it’s actually an English acronym. It sounds ridiculous.

  18. Timothy Byrd says:

    This reminds of a Finnish heavy metal band who switched over writing their lyrics from Finnish to English, because they "sounded really stupid in Finnish".  I think the issue was really that they were fluent in Finnish…

    Trying to find the original of this:

    "English does not borrow from other languages. English follows other languages into dark alleys, knocks them over, and rifles through their pockets for loose vocabulary."

  19. Jan Matis says:

    regarding that pick up car.

    I don’t know how it started in Switzerland, but in Czech republic and Slovakia we also have pickups ( search skoda pickup on google images ) and we call estate type of cars with word kombi (from combined )  

  20. says:

    In Dutch the word pick-up doesn’t refer to a car at all. It’s a gramophone player. I’ve never found any record of Americans or British using the word in that way. Appropriately, it’s pronounced wrong as well: peekUP.

    Likewise, corned beef is pronounced korNETbif. There are no words to describe how embarrassed people feel when they have to explain this to an English speaker.

  21. Schmuli says:

    In hebrew the rear axle is known as a ‘rearaxle’ (pronounced as one word). When someone wanted to refer to the front axle, it became known as the ‘rearaxle kidmi’ (kidmi, קדמי, means front).

  22. Ken Hagan says:

    Non-english speakers may be amused or consoled to note that most of the "English" examples given here are news to this particular (UK) English speaker.

    Perhaps I don’t watch enough US telly imports. No, that can’t be it…

  23. Monika says:

    And we have really good words. "Kindergarten". "Oktoberfest". "Angst".

    One other is: "Fingerspitzengefühl". I like this word, since I know, that it is special.

    It is interesting, that there are "untranslatable" words in different languages. In Russian there is a adjective of the mood being in the state of lost love attachment.

    Nevertheless, you are right, retranslating "Rucksack" is a unforgivable failure.

    (I do not have to mention, that my English is not good)

  24. Monika says:

    And "Schadenfreude" …

    The title of my previous post should have been:

    "And we have exported some word over the world" – but unfortunately a changed title is not accepted.

  25. Warll says:

    This post has excellent style, I think I will now put on some pants.

  26. Leo Petr says:

    @Tymothy Byrd: The phrase was coined by James Nicoll on Usenet:

    "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

    • James Nicoll

    Any other attribution is incorrect.

  27. Aaron says:


    I didn’t know about that one.  However, I do remember my Hebrew teacher in college mentioning that the Ministry of Language tried to introduce "d’var r’chok" (Speaking at a Distance) but no one used it.  "Telefon" is used instead, and a cell phone is called a "pelefon" (not sure where that came from). At least those have the correct meaning.

    The other interesting loan word thing I know about, is that the English equivalent is used to intensify the meaning. "Yesh ba’ayah" ("there is a problem") isn’t as big a deal as "yesh problema".

  28. Mihai says:

    And sometimes you have the same word entering the language with two different forms and meanings.

    In Romanian you have "bişniţă" from business, with a bad connotation (for instance buying hundreds of tickets to an event you think will be popular, just o resell at a higher price).

    The guy doing that is "bişniţar."

    And more recently we got "bisnismen" (from businessman).

    And even more interesting when you have the word from Latin, then it comes back from another Latin language, like French.

    Might sound silly, but in the end it looks like this is how languages evolve (and it is obviously evolution, not intelligent design :-)

  29. CatCube says:

    @Timothy Byrd: "This reminds of a Finnish heavy metal band who switched over writing their lyrics from Finnish to English, because they "sounded really stupid in Finnish"."

    That was <a href="">Stratovarius</a&gt;.  FWIW, their English is pretty good.  I can only hear the the accent a little in their songs.  (I’m from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where a Finnish accent is common among the older generation.)

  30. Warll says:

    "* Manga – in Japanese usually implies only print comics, but often used by Westerners for animation"

    Only by the brits, the problem comes from the fact that "Manga Entertainment" is a major distributor of anime in the UK.

  31. Harisenbon says:


    Actually, manga in Japanese can refer to comics or tv animation.

    Sushi also usually refers to the Fish & Rice combination, even though the origins of the word may be different. Nigiri-zushi is the correct form of what westerners think of as Sushi, but we call it all sushi anyways.

    While there are a large number of English loan words in Japanese, they often have a different nuance or completely different meaning (和製英語) than their original English counterparts.

    I always liked that "Hambaga" refers to an American Hamburger, while "Hambagu" refers to a Hamburg Steak.

  32. Bill says:

    My favorite Japanese to English word is skosh (from sukoshi?) – though I’ve heard people try to argue its of French origin! Very useful word (move over a smidgin).

  33. Anonymous Coward says:

    Apparently, Germans think their language is not cool

    I get that impression over here as well. People replace native words with English words for no reason at all – sometimes I wonder how long it will take for my language to die out entirely…

    Also, people don’t like to read native literature or listen to native songs (I mean the language here – musically our native songs are all but extinct and for good reason) because they think the texts are so banal / mediocre. Yet when you do an objective comparison, you find that the English songs &c. that they so extol are no better in terms of ideas conveyed or style. Meanwhile, some bands and authors do sell well abroad…

    And the irony of it all is that most of my compatriots can’t string together a coherent English sentence and have serious trouble even understanding the worlds current lingua franca.

  34. Lazbro says:

    ‘Mountainbike’ in Dutch puzzles me. There’s a perfectly good literal translation: bergfiets. Bergfiets is shorter, bleeding obvious, and has 2 syllabes instead of 3. So why…?

    Also, mobile phone terminology. ‘I sent an sms’. ‘I bought a gsm’.

  35. Drak says:


    In ducth ‘lol’ literally means ‘fun’ so for us folk it can be appropriate to just go ‘lol’ at a funny situation (at least people not-in-the-know will understand what you are expressing, although it’s not usual to just say ‘lol’, more usual would be ‘dat is lollig’ -> ‘that’s funny / enjoyable’)


    Mazda, according to wikipedia:

    The company website states that name "stems from Ahura Mazda, the highest Zoroastrian God of reason who granted wisdom and united man, nature and the other gods." It also notes that the name sounds like that of the founder of the company, Jujiro Matsuda.

    So probably Mazda is not pronounced exactly like Ma-tsu-da.

  36. cbp says:

    Almost every word we import from Japanese we royally screw up, either in meaning or pronunciation (this is coming from an Australian perspective):

    * Karaoke – we flub almost every syllable pronouncing it ka-ree-o-kee, rather than ka-ra-o-ke

    * Sushi – we often use to refer to raw fish or perhaps some type of "Californian roll", rather than vinegared rice

    * Nissan Pajero – Often pronounced Pa-jeer-ro as though it were a European word, rather than the more stumpy but correct Pa-je-ro.

    * Futon – often refers to a low bed frame, rather than the foldable mattress

    * Mazda – Should be ma-tsu-da

    * Manga – in Japanese usually implies only print comics, but often used by Westerners for animation

  37. Mike says:

    If I remember correctly, in German "Bluejeans" is the generic word for Jeans. This means that a pair of black jeans are "Schwartze Bluejeans".

    Any native German speakers can feel free to correct me if I remembered wrong…

  38. mafutrct says:

    What I find particularly disturbing is that the Germans are not satisfied with reimporting “uber”. So they translated it again: to “over”.

    Calling things “uber” (using the English meaning “super”) was already common here, but now, uber-whatever is called over-whatever. Yes, uber-dad became over-dad in German.

    We’re too cool for our language.

  39. Michael says:


    No, we usually call ’em Jeans.

    But the only people worse (well, in this regard at least) than those who misappropriate English words are those who expound the virtues of keeping the language “pure.” One wonders if they ever eat a cookie (“Keks,” from English cakes) or open a window (“Fenster,” from Latin fenestra).

  40. Andreas Brinck says:

    Here’s another swenglish word:

    This is apparently known as a cherry picker in the US :)

  41. nn says:

    My favourite is an actual two-way exchange between German and English:

    • Germans commonly use the word "party" now when they mean "Fest".
    • But I’ve actually heard Americans use …-"fest" instead.

    Another anti favourite: pseudo English word in German that doesn’t even exist in US English is "wellness"

  42. Tor says:

    Svenska datatermgruppen (The Swedish Computer Term Group) publishes a list of suggested Swedish words to use instead of computer related loadwords from English.

    ‘Säkerhetskopia’ instead of ‘backup’ etc.

    They are quite unsuccessful, though most of their recommended terms are at least understood if not commonly used.

  43. Si Trew says:

    @RubenP: As an Englishman, I would use "pick-up" to mean the armature and needle of a record player, the bit that "picks up" the signal from the record.

    One of my favourites is the sweet (candy) "barley sugar". It was originally French "sucre brulé", burnt sugar, and being imported to Britain became "barley sugar". It was then imported back to France as "sucre d’orge". So a confection containing no barley is on both sides of the Channel called barley sugar.

  44. One of my favourites is the sweet (candy) "barley sugar". It was originally French "sucre brulé", burnt sugar, and being imported to Britain became "barley sugar".

    I always wondered why it was called that!

    Anyway, I wanted to add that ‘pickup’ is a bit more general and can refer to the bit that ‘picks up’ the sound in a number of instruments as well (usually an electric guitar). AFAIK it’s a commonly used word.

    Also, I had no idea that entrée meant ‘main course’ in America, or that ‘a la mode’ meant ‘with ice cream’. Both of those seem completely insane :P.

  45. Marcus says:

    @James Schend

    My understanding is that in Japan, "manga" refers to both.

    That is not correct.  In Japanese, manga (from the Chinese man4hua4) refers simply to comics and animé (from "animation") refers simply to animated works.  No distiction based on origin is part of their meanings.

  46. Gabe says:

    I remember being surprised when I saw some French movie where the actor used the word "ombrelle" and it was subtitled "parasol". As if the word "umbrella" wasn’t a more obvious choice. Seeing as how the word "parasol" is the same in both French and English, it seems like the screenwriter would have used the word parasol in the first place if that’s what he meant.

    Or maybe French and English both have the words "parasol" and "umbrella (ombrelle)", but have different meanings?

  47. GregM says:

    "Here’s another swenglish word:

    This is apparently known as a cherry picker in the US :)"

    Skylift in the US is either the name of a company that makes cherry pickers or the completly unrelated (except that it involves people being up in the air) Aerial Tramway

    I wonder if the swenglish word came from the company, like xerox, kleenex, band-aid, or q-tips in English (brand names which are now used as generic terms).

  48. Monika says:


    In Germany we have Parties and Feste and Feiern (sing.: Party, Fest and Feier). On a Party you expect no classic music and on a Fest no drugs.

    A Feier seldom comes alone, it is bound to a reason, Geburtstagsfeier (birthday), Abschiedsfeier (leaving), Familienfeier (family), Trauerfeierlichkeit (death) – Feierlichkeit as Feier is annotated with happieness.

  49. Chris Kent says:

    "This is a rather long and tedious set-up for my recent discovery. Apparently in Switzerland, the term for a light truck—not a semi-trailer but something that a family might own—is a Pickup, even though in English, the term pick-up is used only for a particular type of small truck."

    I find this really confusing, because I have no idea what sort of vehicles you’re on about.

    So, I did some digging to find out what you mean and what the terms would be in English English. Semi-trailer = articulated lorry, Truck = Lorry/Van (depending on size, we use the word truck too), Light Truck = Van (Best I can think of because I don’t know any "family" that would own a lorry). I don’t know anyone who owns a "pickup" type vehicle, and I hardly ever see them in the UK, from what I can find they’re called pickups (for family/commercial use) or flatbeds/flatbed-vans (for commercial use).

    Please correct me if I’ve gone all Pete Tong.

  50. Myria says:

    Japanese actually imported the English word "get" as "getto".  You see it a lot in video games when you get some item.

  51. A_me! says:


    We have a Health and Wellness Fair coming up in San Diego sometime this year.  It appears that wellness is making inroads, but we don’t have a "Wellness Fest" yet.

  52. Nawak says:


    In French:

    • An "ombrelle" (from "ombre", shadow) is a parasol: you carry it to protect you from the sun.
    • A "parasol" (from "para", latin for preparation/protection, and "sol", short for "soleil", sun) is the larger version you stick in the sand at the beach or you have over your garden table. Translates to "sunshade" I think.

    • A "parapluie" (from "para" and "pluie", rain) is the thing you call commonly "an umbrella".

    Do an image search on google if you have doubts.

    In conclusion, same or similar words but different meanings :)

  53. Ari says:

    I’m the MASTER of svengelska. Mostly because I am not yet a master of swedish and have to use swedish a lot. Mix and match ;)

    But I also speak Icelandic, and some attempts at translating words have been particularly harsh on the mind and ears. Simple things like fruit and veg names are absolutely impossible and most people use the unofficial names. They tried to call a banana "bjúgaldin", approximately pronounced: bjoughaaldiin and means "curved fruit".

    Potatos are "jarðepli" Jarthepli (soft "th" like in "the") which means "earth apple". Seriously.

    We talk about "banani" and "kartafla" (same basic word as kartoffel in german")

    Tech words have also had a somewhat dubious history. Some words have gone up like a house on fire, others have gone down like a lead balloon (Mythbusters notwithstanding). No one uses the Icelandic computer terms much, except for VERY simple concepts because a nation of three hundred thousand (yes, 300.000) has to be able to communicate with others so most training material above beginner level is in english.

    Aviation words were another assault upon the senses, with many translations being accurate but unpronouncable, and others easy to say but meaningless.

    Vængbörð (vaengboerth, if you know the ö sound in german or swedish then it’s the same sound, the "th" is again a soft th like in "the") is accurate, but try saying that while working in the cockpit!

    Flaps 15

    Vængbörð 15

    ok, enough for now, have fun.

  54. James Schend says:

    RubenP: The pick-up is a part of a record player (gramophone player), it’s the cartridge that the needle (stylus) plugs in to. But in the states, we just call it a "record player."

    cbp: In the US, typically "manga" is (a style of) Japanese print comics, while "anime" is the animated version of same. My understanding is that in Japan, "manga" refers to both.

    The weird thing is that "anime" is used to refer to *all* Japanese animated movies, even those which aren’t based on manga.

    We also used to use the term "Japanimation", which everybody rejected because it sounds really, really stupid. (I remember being corrected on that around the time Akira came out, early 90s?) Older people will still frequently use "Japanimation", especially when talking about older works like Speed Racer.

  55. Brother Laz says:

    "Svenska datatermgruppen (The Swedish Computer Term Group) publishes a list of suggested Swedish words to use instead of computer related loadwords from English"

    Oh my god, computer terms. Before the computer era, whoever came up with Dutch translations for loanwords at least *tried*. Nowadays the translations are so terribad that nobody uses them except government copywriters.

    The problem is that you can’t just combine two words (‘desktop wallpaper’) in Dutch without physically connecting them, which results in unusable monster words. You’re supposed to be more creative than this and creativity is anathema to the media.

    Screensaver -> schermbeveiliging. Three syllabes to five and the term isn’t even correct (literally: screen security). Yes, I’d like to install a schermbeveiliging, my monitor keeps getting stolen.

    Printer -> afdrukapparaat (printing device) because you can’t noun arbitrary verbs in Dutch unless someone else did it 100 years ago. Nobody ever uses this. Printer took root almost instantly.

    Cursor -> muisaanwijzer. Mouse pointer isn’t a bad translation, but it is the only option and it cannot be abbreviated. So everyone just uses ‘cursor’.

    Backup -> veiligheidskopie (safety copy). Two syllabes to five. GG.

    Browser -> in the years before this became mainstream, the best the media could come up with was bladerprogramma (browsing program).

    They didn’t even bother with a translation for scrolling.

    My Windows 95 copy had the program group ‘systeemwerkset’, which I assume meant system tools but translates as ‘system working set’.

    Etc. :(


    About the pickup thing. Raymond, the fact that you have to explain what you mean by light truck means the term is not specific enough. :P

    Here a Hilux is called ‘pickup’ and an Escalade is an ‘SUV’ (or ‘jeep’ for the older generation). Only the commercial vehicles are trucks.

  56. Robert says:

    A curious one in English from French is exposé. It caught me out when I started reading French mathematical texts, as the main meaning in French seems to be "lecture".

    Similarly, séance’s original meaning in French is just "session", in English it has a much more specific meaning.

  57. Aidan says:

    In Singapore a mobile phone* is known as a ‘handphone’. Perhaps the German Handy is somehow related to that?

    * ‘Cellphone’ in American

  58. Gabe says:

    Ari: The French term for potato, pomme de terre, also translates to "apple of the earth". Of course, what Americans call "French fries", the French call "pommes frites" (fried apples). I don’t know what the French call actual fried apples.

    Now that I look at wikipedia, it seems that several languages appear to call a potato some variation on "earth apple": Aartappel, Eorðæppel, Erdapfel, Terpomo, תפוח אדמה, Terpomo, Eerdappel, Aardappel, Pòm tè, etc.

  59. Dutchfag says:


    Anime in Japan refers to any kind of animation, regardless of origin, although in practice almost all animated features (at least on Japanese television) are of Japanese origin, so when people are talking about anime you can still be pretty confident they’re talking about Japanese animated series.


    Manga is not derived from Chinese, but a compound from Japanese origin that happens to use, as many compounds do these days, the Sinojapanese (kun) readings of the characters. The Chinese word is borrowed from Japanese using the Chinese readings of the same characters.


    It secures your CRT from burning in. And if you set a password, it secures you against naughty eyes. Yes, it’s a long word, but not overly so. Screen saver = 5 mora, Schermbeveiliging = circa 6 mora. It has more syllables, but when you measure the average time it takes people to pronounce it, there’s hardly any difference.


    Er… from my experience cursor in Dutch refers exclusively to the text cursor. The mousepointer is usually called ‘muis’ (mouse) or ‘muispijltje’ (mouse arrow). ‘Aanwijzer’ (pointer) and ‘muisaanwijzer’ are used too.


    No one uses this. People say ‘backup’ or ‘kopie’, almost exclusively prefixed with ‘ik heb geen’.


    Schuiven. But neither ‘schuiven’ nor ‘scrollen’ / ‘scrolling’ are used in daily parlance since usually there’s a snappier alternative.

  60. Linguist says:

    Another cool word American English borrowed from Chinese is kotow, it widely used in US but rarely in Canada?

    And everyone screwed up the pronounciation. Kotow is pronouce like co-tow (co as in coop and code, and tow and as tow-truck), but everyone here in the US write kowtow and pronounces it "cow-tau".

  61. googly says:

    @Monika: regarding the Russian "state of lost love", see the English "lovelorn", which actually is a pretty nice word. Rolls off the tongue really well.

    I’m also Swedish and have never ever heard "service-mind".

    There’s a small chain of pizza restaurants in Sweden named "American Take Away", which is funny to me since "take-away" is BE; in AE it’s as we all know "take-out".

  62. English word ‘super’ comes from French, where it was imported from Latin ‘supra’, which means ‘over’.

  63. English word ‘super’ comes from French, where it was imported from Latin ‘supra’, which means ‘over’.

    Seems rather more likely that it comes straight from the Latin word ‘super’. I’m not sure what distinction (if any) exists between ‘super’ and ‘supra’ in Latin, except that I had not heard of the latter until today.

  64. peterchen says:

    My favorite German word remains  "Feierabend".

    @Monika. I like your classificaiton of Party vs. Feier vs. Fest – though I’d correct that to illegal drugs…

  65. Jérôme Laheurte says:

    In French, there is a perfectly valid word for "digital", it’s "numérique". Still, marketdroids have imported "digital" and use it as a French word. The worse is that there *is* a "digital" in French, which means something entirely different ! This annoys me highly.

  66. I am a japanese descendent and lived in Japan for a year. I could not believe the substitution of genuine japanese words for english imported words, even though there is a traditional japanese correspondency for that particular word.

    I agree that a language is a living thing, that changes from time to time. But this is a total loss of identity. I could not communicate in Japan in japanese nor in english, because imported words  has different meanings or are spelled uncompreensively.

  67. Roland, a German says:

    Unfortunately, the German Microsoft localizers are responsible for introducing many Denglisch words into everyday usage!

    For example, the German equivalent for "Taskbar" is "Taskleiste" (in Windows 95, it was at least spelled "Task-Leiste" with a dash).

    However, "task" is an English word and not German. I’m afraid that while 90% of the German population now knows what the taskbar is, 60% of them don’t know what a "task" is. They have just learned the word though its actual meaning remains mysterious.

    But probably the worst Denglish in Windows is the infamous "Remotezugriff" (when describing security updates fixing vulnerabilities that can be exploited over the Internet). "Remote" is not a German word, and yet it appears monthly in the security updates descriptions.

    I bet that 95% of the German users don’t know what "Remote" means. "Fernzugriff über das Internet" would be 100% clear.

    Denglisch makes Windows usage for German users more confusing, esspecially for the elderly, and the localizers should spend more time on finding correct equivalents in native German.

    As a recent positive example, the terrible "gedownloadet" (meaning: downloaded) from Windows 98-XP had been changed to "heruntergeladen" (optimal German translation) in Vista/7.  

  68. mike says:

    Couple thoughts. First, someone asked for the source of a quote. Here it is (I think):

    "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."

    — James D. Nicoll

    One source: []

    Second, the etymology of a word, or what it meant in its source language, or the fact that there is a "perfectly good word already" makes absolutely zero difference in whether and how a word is used. You might as well complain that last year’s fashions were perfectly serviceable, or that’s not the way they make tacos in Mexico, or the way that the Internet was intended to be used was … . Here’s another cite for youse:

    "Knowledge of etymology is completely unnecessary for using a language. What’s necessary is not what words used to mean, but what words mean now. […] Sometimes it is claimed that an earlier meaning of a word is its literal or real meaning, but really all that can be said is that an earlier meaning is an earlier meaning."

    — "goofy"


    PS Japanese (and German) and any other language that borrows words is not "losing its identity," sheesh. Borrowing some vocabulary — as English has done (see first cite) with gusto (fr the Spanish) — is a way to grow, not a way to die.

  69. Ben says:

    My favorite "We’re overly stupid in Germany" example in terms of word creations is this:


    Now – this is obviously not a german word. Would you understand right away that this is our word for a host on TV? "Handy" for a cellular/mobile phone was mentioned already, we have a bunch of those..

  70. Andreas says:

    Another Swede here who’s never heard “service mind” being used. It does show up 230 times on Google, but I think Raymond goes a bit too far when he accuses “Swedes” of using the term.

    Many Belgians are quite convinced that a cell phone is called “a gsm” in English.

    [I’d seen the term in two unrelated contexts. Given that I have limited exposure to Swedish, two data points feels like a lot. I guess I over-extrapolated. -Raymond]
  71. Britney Spears says:

    Another nice example is the use of "Beamer" for video projector in germany and the netherlands.

  72. David Andersson says:

    In Swedish a "truck" is a forklift.

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content