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Seymour Gris: Freaks fighting for German

Gris dives into the crackpot subculture of those battling against "Denglish" – for you.

Image for Seymour Gris: Freaks fighting for German
Photo by Walter Crasshole

I heard about them because of their campaign against Schlecker. Deutsche Sprachwelt – a newspaper put out by the “language defenders” known as Verein der Sprachpflege e.V.  – had written to the drug store chain to complain about their use of the slogan “For You. Vor Ort”.

Always interested in hopeless underdog causes, I went to the Deutsche Sprachwelt website and ordered a free copy of their newspaper – which arrived promptly with a free anti-Denglisch sticker (above).

To read this text-heavy quarterly is to wade through kilometres of ink about the myriad battles and concerns of the self-appointed protectors of Germanic linguistic purity: a campaign against the word “sale” in shop windows, an earnest reportage about Swedish “resistence” against Svengelska (a hybrid of Swedish and English) and a rant against a new un-German car name, the VW up! Then, the gloss titled “The dispensible foreign word” trashes the Family Ministry’s GenderKompetenzZentrum for employing the word “Queerversity” – and suggests using “heruntergeladen” in place of “gedowngeloadet”.

According to Deutsche Sprachwelt, Germany’s submissive adoption of so much English lies in the country’s defeat in 1945 and the ensuing occupation by Americans. A meandering, poorly-edited essay titled “Deutschland schafft seine Sprache ab” (punning on Thilo Sarazin’s highly questionable 2010 bestseller Deutschland schafft sich ab) explores the “psychological reasons for missing linguistic fidelity.” Here Wolfgang Hildebrandt writes that Germans’ use of fake English words (or misused English words) like “Handy”, “Beamer”, “Oldtimer”, “Mobbing” and “Talkmaster” belies “a certain desire to associate oneself with the victors of two world wars.”

Hildebrandt continues his analysis of American dominance over Germany: “The Volk takes part in ‘American Weekends’ and visits festivals with cowboy hats, cheerleaders, line-dancing, square-dancing and American football. Music groups sing songs in styles such as soul, heavy metal, country, blues and southern rock.” And of course, it is primarily the uneducated lower classes that take part in such cultural horrors!

Obviously, American occupation of Germany – military and cultural – is a popular theme amongst fringe conservatives (not to mention anti-US lefties). From here, it’s a slippery slope into far-right conspiracy theory. Neo-Nazis, for example, love to call the German Constitution invalid, because it was dictated by the Allies after World War II.

The ads in Deutsche Sprachwelt are great fun, too: books of poems on how Germany is a Banana Republic, Christmas cards in Gothic script and self-published tomes ranting about oppressive “political correctness”.

Let’s be clear: Deutsche Sprachwelt is the labour of conservative crackpots – and surely most of their readers do fall into that category. But they definitely have a point: words like geliked or outgesourced are ridiculous. Nothing gets me more worked up than Germans saying,“Ich bin total happy” (pronounced “heppy”). Plus, purely on a practical level, young Berliners über-eager to speak English make it really difficult for young expats to actually learn German in the capital.

Then again, another approach would be to for the whole of Europe to wholeheartedly embrace Denglisch! While the Fourth Reich is still nowhere in sight, the Eurocalypse is revealing who’s in charge of the continent – Germany. If Europe has to speak German now, as CDU boss Volker Kauder suggests, at least we should make sure it includes as much English as possible.