„knackwurst“ and „lumpenproletariat“- German loanwords

Posted on: 16. September 2009

Being in contact with the English language-reading articles or books, watching movies in English- you will – as a German native speaker- at some point encounter German words looking pretty awkward to you in the English context.
A lot of loanwords illustrate German food clichés such as „knackwurst“ and „sauerkraut“.
Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut
Others are, of course, taken from the 3rd Reich (oops- another loanword) like „blitzkrieg“ and „fuehrer“. And then you have those words referring to Germany’s more pleasant image as the country of poets and philosophers: „wahlverwandtschaft“, „weltanschauung“ and „bildungsroman“.
I kind of like „lumpenproletariat“, „alpenglow“ from the German word „Alpenglühen“ and of course, „frauleinwunder“.
I think that „verboten“ also sounds quite funny if you pronounce it the English way in a sentence like „Certain phrases are verboten.“ (BBC News) or “There is a reason why Rudy Giuliani is, in early polls, the surprising leader for the GOP nomination in 2008, even though he is pro-choice, pro-gay rights and many other verboten things.” (Newsweek Online, 4. September 2005).
Kitsch at it's best
Another word „stolen“ from German is „kitsch“, frequently used in contexts such as “the kitschy title sounds a warning gong at once” (Time, 15. September 1980, S. 51) or „[…] and it is kitsch art of the highest order.“ (BBC News).
Do you know any examples of German loanwords in English or other languages?



4 Antworten to "„knackwurst“ and „lumpenproletariat“- German loanwords"

Some nice ones there. I think you hit on ‚verboten‘ quite rightly as one of our favourites! As for others, I can think of a few which are very common, such as ‚Kindergarten‘, ‚Angst‘, or ‚Gesundheit‘ as an alternative to ‚(God) bless you!‘ Plenty others refer specifically to Germany, such as ‚Autobahn‘, or as you mentioned come directly out of a historical context, like ‚Lebensraum‘.

Of course, whilst a lot of words stand out as German, particularly those found only in small niches, many others become heavily anglicised in pronunciation that most wouldn’t realise them to be loanwords. ‚Abseiling‘ is a great example, and I imagine if you asked most kids taking part what it meant, they would reply something along the lines of „sailing on/with your abs“ (common abbreviation for abdominal muscles). That’s before they pick up their rucksacks and go home. Another example which I only came across recently is the character ‚Kris Kringle‘, a name normally used interchangeably with Santa Claus, which is apparently a strong bastardisation of ‚das Christkindl‘!

There are no doubt plenty of others you can find, though one which is possibly quite special is the prefix ‚über-‚ (often as ‚uber-‚). It’s normally used to give something a strong German flavour, but as a separate syllable quite interesting that it exists alone. You’ll find it in conjunction with words that just about every English speaker would understand but aren’t usually used outside of that context (such as ‚ja’/’nein‘, ’schnell‘ or ‚Schwein(e)hund‘).

I stumbled across „Gesundheit“ as a loanword during my research, but it didn’t occur to me you would use it in any other context than to make fun of Germans- do you? I mean, do you SERIOUSLY say „Gesundheit“ when somebody next to you sneezes?

Now, „Kris Kringle“,:)- that is really sick! Where did you come across that character- a cartoon?

Yep, I certainly remember as a child hearing someone say ‚Gesundheit‘ after someone sneezed, and then wondering how on Earth you’d spell that (especially since it probably come out as ‚ga-zoon-tight‘). I could be completely wrong on this front, but I always figured it entered English via Yiddish speaking immigrants to the US, and I think I’ve probably seen it more in American media than heard it on British streets.

Kris Kringle really is an abomination, you’re right there. I never heard the name in my own home as a child, though I believe it’s a pretty prevalent case. The main character in the film ‚Miracle on 34th Street‘, for example, is called Kris Kringle. It’s probably the weirdest transformation of a German loanword into English, since most slide pretty easily from one to the other, thanks to having so many similarities.

I’d be interested to see examples of German loanwords in languages less closely related. I know in Russian, for instance, there is no equivalent of the ‚h‘ sound, so towns such as Mannheim or Hannover become ‚Mangeim‘ and ‚Gannover‘ respectively. The only real word I can think of though is ‚Rytsar‘, from the original ‚Ritter‘.

(Did a quick search and found this link. Plenty from the Middle Ages it seems!)

That’s so weird…but on the other hand, it is by now just as common in Germany to say „sorry“ instead of „entschuldigung“ or „tut mir leid“ when you step on somebody’s foot…

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