A randform reader complained about my use of language in my last blog post:

# Siggi-Günther T. Brünnle Says:
August 11th, 2009 at 9:37 am e

Ms. Kutz-

I occasionally read your blog for scientific reasons, especially your husband provides useful information about scientific visualization. However your personal language experiments are – in my point of view – out of place. As a german I feel already enough annoyed by an increasing amount of anglizism, Genglish and so on. Your above experiment in your “blogentry-mini-pseudo-haiku” and what is does to the nice french language is terrible.

I feel a bit pressured to reply to this:

Mr. Brünnle, I somewhat understand your discomfort. I find it also still astonishing if I buy my rolls not any more at a “Bäckerei” but at a “Backpoint”, if a paint workshop writes “wir bieten unsere Services an” instead of “Dienstleistungen”, a.s.o. however I think it makes no sense to complain about it. Languages change constantly and incorporate new words. Moreover I think it is important to play with language and I reserve the freedom to do so on my blog. If you feel offended by a specific phrase/word and if you can explain to me why than I may however delete the respective phrase/word.

It is important though to preserve the knowledge about a language. So it is somewhat sad if people forget about using some words or grammar, if these constitute a richer or different understanding of our world. Like I find it a bit irritating if german people are increasingly using a different grammar for verbal constructions, like in the above sentence on below poster of a german political party. Here the “correct” formulation would have been: “xxxxx lädt +++++ ein” instead of “xxxxx lädt ein +++++” that is the prefix of a verb usually embraces the object of a sentence in german. One can get around this by using colons, or alternatively terminate the sentence “xxxxx lädt ein.” with a period, but this hasn’t been done here. I saw this “grammatical anglicism” meanwhile very often elsewhere. It manifests a different understanding of the specific verb-object relation, which used to be an interesting characteristic of the german language. It would be sad if this would be forgotten but dying libraries are rather fueling these tendencies.

It is somewhat scary if a language changes or develop so fast, that people have difficulties to communicate, like this happenes e.g. with the use of acronyms in computer networks. But on the other hand often, like in the case of computer (and other) science, there are no german words for the described realities and thus for communication it is usually easier to use the corresponding already existing english words or their corresponding genglish variants (which are usual a tranformation of the english word into german grammar, like “einloggen”) rather than to invent german analogs, whose meaning would need to be explained and communicated at the first place (like I doubt that many german people understand the word “Zerknalltreibling“).

I think that playing with language is very important, thus RAP, poetry slams etc. are usually rather furthering language abilities, than distorting a language. I also adore the naming of german barbershops (here a very remarkable example, namely a barbershop called Kaiserschnitt, which I passed by and would have fotographed, if I wouldnt have been occupied with other things: “Kaiser” means emperor (from Caesar) and “schnitt” means “cut, so literally the meaning of the word is “emperors cut”, however the meaning of “Kaiserschnitt” in german is caesarean).

Why do I think it is important if people play with language?

Because besides the fun and cultural aspect it is among others important to remember that language can be very manipulative.

Like the word “bad banks” presupposes that a distinction between “good” and “bad” can be made. And if a politician talks about “faule Papiere in bad banks ausgliedern” (literally: “spin off foul papers into bad banks”) than this sounds very different to “putting foul papers into taxpayers responsibility”. Moreover if it is enough to say a bank is “system relevant” and thus neglecting already the need of explaining this term than this is more than untrustworthy.

If people play with words then the sensitivity towards such manipulations could be sharpened.


supplement 20.08.2009: I was told to translate the above poster.

Johannes Singhammer is a first name (Johannes=John), last name (Singhammer), the same holds true for Horst Seehofer, who is the minister-president of Bavaria. The expression “lädt ein” isn’t customary in this form within a german sentence, because the object between “lädt” and “ein” is missing. “lädt” is the grammatical conjugation of the word “laden” as a verb it means “to load”. “ein” means either “one”, “a” or “in”. Here it could only mean “in”, since this is clear from the context. Moreover in a different context “ein” would either need to be conjugated to e.g. “einen” or need to be supplemented with add-ons like “voll” or “be-“. So literally “lädt ein” means “to load in” , the nowadays meaning of the word “einladen” is however “to invite”. So the poster should probably be translated as: Johannes Singhammer invites minister-president Horst Seehofer – meeting between generations or may be also as: Johannes Singhammer is inviting: minister-president Horst Seehofer – meeting between generations. ???

2 Responses to “L’ONULLOL”

  1. Xaver Says:

    It is somewhat scary if a language changes or develop so fast, that people have difficulties to communicate, like this happenes e.g. with the use of acronyms in computer networks.

    Thank you for this post it was interesting. I would like to remark that the influence of computers on the english language can also be seen in the increased use of numbers everywhere, like P2P is clearly computer acronym, but Coffee2go not. I haven’t though yet seen the term 40fications.

  2. Alois Says:

    Na des hoast B2P: Bier2Peerr!!!!!!!!!!!!

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