Update: Dictionary of Local Englishes – New entries
For more dictionary entries and a more detailed description of the terms “Local Englishes, German Version” and “German English”, please go to go to Page:
A Dictionary of “Local Englishes, German Version”
Creeping in through the back door
Hardly noticed or acquiescently accepted by native speakers of English and non- native speakers alike, the many Local English versions, and in this particular instance “German English”, are often substandard, frequently unnatural or unidiomatic and therefore hard to understand, apart from being in many cases incomprehensible balderdash. All too frequently, words have become ambiguous catch-alls which have been emptied of dictionary meaning so that they might fit any experience the speaker would not take the trouble to define. However, one must admit that the latter is probably true for all languages.
Elevating mutilated, hard-to-understand and difficult English to the ranks of Standard Englishes
Local English coinages aggravate this situation. New words that sound and look English but which aren’t English are being invented with reckless incompetence and flaunted as indelible evidence of the true standard of German English in all media.
Some may call it a mongrel language, a bastardized, distorted and degenerated version of native-speaker Standard English while others may claim that it is mankind’s next step on the evolutionary ladder. The latter group of people will find this a welcome and useful guide to “enriching” the English language. The uncritical proponents of the doctrine “anything goes” may even think that Local Englishes are the definitive aid to increasing the word power and language proficiency of learners and students at all levels.
A university lecturer once wrote in her description for her “Varieties of English” university course. “It is not wrong English. It is just different…” Palliating, extenuating and explaining away the deficiencies of Pidgin-English-like Local Englishes is the easy way of dealing with this problem, thus elevating Pidgin English to the ranks of Standard Englishes. Conversely, the majority of native speakers are in all likelihood completely unaware of this downgrading of their tongue.
A sort of barely elevated Pidgin which sounds like incompetent patchwork
I began my humble collection of “different”, yet often hilarious English words about 10 years ago. That was about at the time when you would still find people criticizing openly the sort of English spoken in Germany. Today, you will be hard put to find realistic assessments like the following, made by Klaus Reichert the president of the “Deutsche Akadamie für Sprache und Dichtung” (Society for Language and Poetry) in a newspaper interview almost ten years ago: “What we take for English is often only a sort of barely elevated Pidgin which sounds like incompetent patchwork.” Mr Reichert`s noble intention to stem the “foreign infiltration” of the German language has, unfortunately, failed completely for reasons beyond his control.
All entries in this mock-dictionary are fully documented by either downloads, print-outs, screen-shots, newspaper clippings or copies of original fliers, brochures, etc.
If you happen to see a taxi cruising any of the streets in Germany with a notice up in one of the windows saying „Reservated“, it will be no use hailing this particular taxi. Yet, many a social-worker-type-teacher of English may be inclined to say that it is “close enough” to the intended “Reserved”. According to the native-speaker radio presenter reporting this item of news, it was not correct English, but good enough for a German. Come to think of it, the expression “good enough” is sometimes seen on websites regarding the performance of a particular software, meaning that a particular software is not as good as it should or could be but good enough for a certain segment of the market.
The “brain-up” initiative was launched in Germany in 2004 in search of Germany´s top universities. This overzealous drive at establishing new standards of excellence for Germany’s elitist universities has led to this award-winning Denglish coinage. To all those who expected a power booster pill wrapped in blue sugar-coating to help people sustain the peak of cerebral passion, it must have been vastly disappointing.
Announcements on Hannover’s trams are now made in impeccable English. But this was not always the case. More than 20 years ago, it was quite different when the then novel system of automated announcement was introduced. When reaching the last stop, passengers were asked to “get out”. Admittedly, you could expect to find a terse expression of this sort in Germany but this one was over the top. The effect was hilarious, caused quite a stir and was reportedly widely in local newspapers. When the culprit was asked about his word choice, the German translator said apologetically that it said so in a dictionary.
“…a few steps and you are in the green”
This word for word translation from German could be found on a website describing the location of a hotel. It was situated adjacent to a city-park on one side and a large city forest on the other. It only proves that such monstrous examples of German English are no longer confined to teachers` lounges and translators` offices but can be shared globally. In the meantime, the hotel in question has a website that was completely revised by a native speaker.
“…and follow the restrictions of the HACCP”
What a nasty nuisance these limitations are! I found this bit on a website when translating another. This example confirms the axiom than non-native speaker English all too often lacks the subtlety necessary to express issues that are of great concern. The HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) is an internationally recognised scheme of food safety standards. Here are some suggestions for a more responsible translation:
“…and abide by the rules and regulations laid down in the HACCP directives.”
“ …and we meet the demands laid down in the HACCP regulation.”
“… and our procedures are in compliance with the food and safety requirements of the HACCP regulation.”
„Please check your coats and bags“ (notice in a library)
Do not panic when you read something to this effect in Germany. You are not expected to check your grooming. Neither are you required to have a quick glance to see whether your bag’s body has a lovely sheen and is otherwise spotlessly clean.
In German English, this is used for „check in your coats and bags“.
“Please put out the television”
Again, no need to be alarmed. No need to go looking for a fire blanket or fire extinguisher. In all probability, your host’s television set is not on fire. In German English, it simply means “Switch off the telly.”
More highlights of “Local Englishes“
In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter. ( Vienna)
Please leave your values at the front desk. (Paris)
Customers who find the waitresses rude ought to see the manager. (Kenia)
Patrons are requested not to have children in the bar. (Norway)
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable. (Bucharest, Romania)
You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid. (Japan)
All the above highlights are taken from:
Please to try the tarts. They are ready for you on the trolley.
This is from a flyer enclosed with the menu in a luxury hotel in Egypt.
(The Book of Mistaikes, Gyles Brandeth, First Futura edition 1982 (UK),
Copyright©) Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd and Victorama Ltd.
Pending the outcome of nationwide discussion:
“She’s got a knuckle in her eye” (from the original song lyrics)
“Knuckle” is the bone of contention here. An extensive internet search with about 10 search engines did not yield one single collocation with “got a knuckle in * eye”. All results found are from the Local English domain “de” and refer to the song in question. It would be easy to dismiss this coinage as easily classifiable as local gibberish. There are, however, two problems. The song writer is American but the term in question doesn’t seem to be native-speaker English. Apart from that, many Germans had problems with this passage as the transcripts of the lyrics discussed in internet forums show. Before he official song lyrics had been published,
fans had replaced “knuckles” with “luck” and thus changed the meaning: “She’s got luck all in her eye”.
The official version goes like this: “She’s got a knuckle in her eye”. It appears that to those fans who had preferred “luck”, “knuckles” did not make much sense.
If there was some cock-up when the song was recorded, then we will never learn. Who would confess to being a bungling bunch of beta-performers? If it was really meant to be “She’s got a knuckle in her eye”, then the Local English in Germany will be enriched by a “meaningful and important” coinage.
And for good measure another bone of contention a bit further down in the song lyrics:
“He drops a pause”
An internet search did not yield any results at all on native-speaker domains. Nonetheless, in this case one could argue that the song writer has used his “artistic” licence. Incidentally, there was a similarly heated discussion going on on the German domain “de”. The point of this discussion was, again a novelty again due to devoted fans trying to transcribe the song before the lyrics had officially been published. The alternative to “He drops a pause” was “He drops a puss”, again due to bad pronunciation on the part of the singer.
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