A Gerlish Figure.....(of Speech)
(originally published in the Deutsche Rundschau, May/June 2004, Toronto, Canada) [www.deutsche-rundschau.com]
Contra voices are being heard in Germany condemning Denglish...a new language using interspersed English words when conversing in German. The younger Germans say, “Cool”. The older, German language purists say, “_____” (fill in your favorite, multi-purpose, German epithet).
But what about the English side of the equation? More and more “new” German words are being added to English, joining those that have become so Americanized, that many Americans don’t even realize their German origins.
Nevertheless, I set about to prove English’s intrinsic purity by proposing an English ARTICLE whose LEITMOTIF was that using any words imported from German would be VERBOTEN. I organized a coffee KLATSCH with a few linguistic enthusiasts (all BURGHERS of San Diego) to discuss my notion. We agreed to meet in a familiar RATSKELLAR. One attendee lives in a remote area of the county. He had wanted more LEBENSRAUM for his growing family. Nevertheless, because of the nearness of his house to the local AUTOBAHN network, he was able to hop in his VOLKSWAGEN DIESEL and quickly join us. Another member of the group, a documented ÜBERFRAU...a soccer mom, KINDERGARTEN teacher and the mother of three school age children, joined us, as well. English is a language that started as an offshoot of German, then spent many years in WANDERLUST in the language HINTERLANDS before attaining a GESTALT and becoming its own MEISTER. Because of English’s predominance in computer technology, the war in words is advancing at BLITZKRIEG speed. However, English has its own set of purist POLTERGEISTS. They share a certain SCHADENFREUDE with the plight of the German language purists. The English point-of-view provides us a DOPPELGÄNGER. Thus, the problem presents itself on two distinct levels in DOUBLEDECKER fashion. If this trend keeps up, there is an increasing ANGST that English will become KAPUT as a separate language and merge, once again, with German and we will have neither German nor English, but a new, ERSATZ Gerlish. In our group’s lively discussion of an hour or so fueled by a few STEINS of LAGER and PRETZEL munching, our consensus was that such an article is possible, but would not be easy to construct. Anybody pulling off this trick might qualify as a WUNDERKIND of English letters. Before breaking up, we partook of a typical American lunch of WIENERS and SAUERKRAUT. Another choice, of course, was HAMBURGERS. There were also the side offerings of a fine coldcut selection, including some LEBERWURST, KNACKWURST, BRATWURST, BRAUNSCHWEIGER, pungent LIMBURGER, and slices of dark PUMPERNICKEL bread. All were authentic DELICATESSEN treats. As an after lunch dessert, we all enjoyed some apple STRUDEL topped with STREUSEL. We then adjourned. Although it had been a warm, sunny day...about 70 degrees FAHRENHEIT...it was the rainy season. A few SPRITZER found their way onto our windshields as we departed.
There you have it. Have I accomplished my goal? No way ! What sort of DUMMKOPF would even undertake a task to write “pure” English? No such language exists. English is the champion of all language thieves. The result itself might be looked upon as a bit of verbal KITSCH. My attempt was WUNDERBAR, but it failed! And this is only the tip of the ICEBERG.
Thus, we see that the word assimilation phenomenon in both languages is definitely not one to be sneezed at, because if it continues...all we can say in our best “pure” English is to offer a very, well-intentioned, but premise-defeating...GESUNDHEIT !
Copyright © 2007 by Frank Koerner