3 English Words Germans Use Wrong
I always think it’s funny when foreign words sneak into a language that just aren’t used quite right. English isn’t immune to this either. We use the German word angst to describe a “feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.”, or to describe me when I was an emo goth, writing bad poetry about death and feeling bad all the time, unless I was going for a stroll in a graveyard (i.e. angsty poet girl).
But in German, the word really just means fear.
Ok, close enough.
The better examples are the ones that are just plain wrong in a sometimes hilarious way. Here are my three favorites.
In my early days in Berlin, I remember stopping dead in my tracks (pun intended) when I passed by a shop with the words “Bodybag Sonderangebot” (body bag sale).
No, the shop wasn’t having a sale on “non-porous bags designed to contain a human cadaver”, bodybag is just what Germans call crossbody bags (the “cross” takes away the crime scene feel).
To keep with the misuses of the word “body,” (but luckily not bodies themselves!), this is also the word Germans use for onesies.
I’ve never really been able to figure out why Germans calls tuxedos a “smoking”, but maybe it has something to with James Bond (guess we can be glad they don’t call it a “shaken, not stirred”).
Since Germans tend towards suffering from knowitallitis, I have had a couple of arguments with people who refused to believe smoking was not the word we used for this in English. “Of course that’s the right word! We wouldn’t use an English word if it wasn’t the right one.”
Ok, Hans, get yourself invited to a wedding in Poughkeepsie and then try to rent a smoking for the occasion, I dare you!
Then again, maybe they just chose the word because of the -ing ending. I taught EFL for many years and I can tell you first hand the most overused tense in the English language (at least by German speakers) is the present continuous, followed closely by the present perfect.
I’m not really quite sure why, except maybe they just like that little extra -ing ring.
And Germans aren’t the only ones. In France, shampoo is called shampooing and snacks are called snacking.
Yep, the German word for cell phone is, you guessed it, handy. This one maybe makes a bit of sense since cell phones are kind of handy.
Then again, timewasting would maybe be even the better choice, since that’s mostly what they’re for and you get that beloved -ing ring again.
Spread the word in Berlin, Hamburg and Rosenheim, let’s see if it catches on.