April 4, 2007

Ginglish II: More Ginglish

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the linguistic development known as “Ginglish,” that curious combination of English as spoken by native German speakers. But since then, I’ve encountered a few incidences that can’t really be classified as Ginglish, but which aren’t proper German or English either. So I’ve come to the conclusion that there must be a fourth category: English that isn’t trying to be English at all, but English that has been so appropriated into the German language, that it cease to retain any of its original English meaning.

English has become such the lingua franca of the modern world that it can no longer be considered as belonging exclusively to native speakers of English. For instance, all across Europe there are Internet cafés called “Internet Non-Stop.” Both words are English words, but we would never put them together like that. Still, you ask someone from Madrid to Moscow for an “internet Non-Stop” and they’ll point you in the right direction. Ask them for an “internet café” and you might draw a blank. Likewise, my hair salon offers a “hair flat-rate,” which I have learned means that you can pay a flat fee of 35 euros a month and get your hair cut as often as you want. Again, I understand what both words mean in English, but I never would have put two and two together an come to this conclusion. Besides, I can’t imagine that anyone but my father cuts his hair more than once a month.

So, without further ado, a few more instances of non-English English. Maybe you can figure out what they mean:

Exhibit A. I came across this Kneipe (bar) on my recent trip to Dresden. I’ve since searched all of my German dictionaries, and I have yet to find a meaning for “ass” that makes any sense in the context of a bar. I’m afraid that my knowledge of German slang isn’t very good, so I can’t say if “ass” means “ass” in German as well as in English, but I doubt it. And besides, the German word for a donkey is “Esel,” not “ass.” As it is, the actual German word “ass” (actually spelled “aß”), is the literary past tense of “to eat,” which makes no sense in this context either. So, I am left to conclude that “Bierbar ‘Ass’” has a specific German meaning devoid of its English one.

Exhibit B (click to enlarge). This is a Goth apparel shop a few blocks from my house. It’s where Marilyn Manson would go to shop, were he to ever visit Würzburg. Now, I’ve never found Goth fashion very glamorous, but I can appreciate that some people do. And some people who do have been known to commit suicide. Still, I can’t imagine a store by this name, flashing the symbol of a handgun, would be allowed to stay in business for very long – not even in the gun-happy U. S. of A. But maybe that’s a difference in taste and not in language.

Exhibit C. However, there can be no justifiable cause to name a hair salon “Hair Killer.” No way. No how. Just doesn’t make any sense. So, I can only assume that “killer” in the context of “hair” has a completely different German connotation than its English one. I probably means “cool.” Like [Question]: “You’ve got really killer hair. Where’d you get it cut?” [Answer]:“Hairkiller.”

Exhibit D. Despite its subtitle, Tanesha does not sell costume fairy wings or costumes for fairies of any sort. It merely sells your average “first and second hand” women’s clothing. Furthermore, I don’t think we’d say “firsthand” clothing either. Sounds cheap. But nobody asked this English speaker.

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