German in English

Here is an interesting paragraph I found on the website “Motley Fool”, on investing. Notice that the authors – probably Americans, but almost certainly not of German descent – used the German word ?ber as a prefix.
Robert Kiyosaki, author of the uber-successful Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, learned valuable lessons about money from both his real father (Poor Dad) and a wealthy family friend (Rich Dad).There are quite a few German prefixes and suffixes that are used in American slang.

Hi Jamie (K), what about the word ubermachine - is it commonly known by Americans too? As far as I understand it is used to talk about a super machine?

I’ve never heard the word, but I was able to get some hits on it on Google. Well, more than some: about 500 for “ubermachine” and more than 10,000 for “uber-machine”. There are articles where it’s used to refer to a computer, to a certain model of BMW, and to a comic book villain.

Usually the use of the prefixes “?ber-” and “ur-” doesn’t get firmly established on a single word. It’s usually improvised on the spur of the moment. You get things like “?ber-nerd”, etc.

I remember that Steve Martin also uses a word that starts with uber in his Pure Drivel, but I can’t recall which term it is exactly. I think it occurs in the story about the sledge hammer.

Here are two more examples.

From Forbes magazine:
Her group is launching attacks on the Chinese wall of censorship that blocks access to sites discussing verboten topics like civil rights and democracy.
From a political columnist named Kathleen Parker:
In the several days since the pending sale was announced amid much Sturm und Drang, new facts have surfaced that ultimately may convince Americans that the sale won’t threaten national security.

At university there we had a couple of American professors who would lecture business administration (especially modern corporate communications) and one of them always told us stories about how the Germans use German words when they speak English and vice versa. One of them, told us that a lot of German words that carry a negative meaning are used in American English. The examples I remember are angst, schnaps, kitsch, bliltzkrieg, dreck, verboten and schadenfreude. So the image the Americans have of the Germans is that we are a nation to be afraid of :wink:
Is that true, Jamie (K)?

[color=darkblue]It’s hardly likely, Frank! The Schnaps alone should amply make up for it. Throw in some Bretzels into the bargain and the country’s image should be as good as new :slight_smile: .

Well, this is kind of complicated. If you sneeze, Americans will say. “Bless you!” but they might also say, “Gesundheit!” even if they don’t know what it means. In America “-toberfest” (from Oktoberfest) has now become a suffix that indicates some kind of fun festival in the autumn. Search Google using “*toberfest”, and you will get some very interesting results, including “trucktoberfest”, “dogtoberfest” and some other things. Some Americans call a rambunctious child in their family a “snickelfritz”. This is a funny term of affection. We enjoy our “bock beer” in the spring. I wouldn’t say that all the words are negative. Remember that German-Americans are the second largest ancestry group in the US – almost as big as the English.

However, you did notice that a lot of the German words in American English involve militarism and dictatorship. But this is understandable, right? We were called in twice to help win horribly bloody wars when Germany got out of control. (And Germany was able to get out of control because the rest of Europe’s diplomats thought chattering would solve the problem.) As for words like schadenfreude, there’s no word for that in English, and we probably just took it from whatever widely known European language had it. Note that we get a lot of negative words like that from Russian, too, and even from Italian.

It’s true that the two world wars have left a very fearsome image of Germany and Germans in the minds of many Americans. (For example, one of my cousins has been all over Europe, but refuses to visit Germany, even though his ancestors are Friedls and Kalthoffs.) This is often aggravated by the fact that when Americans meet real Germans, they find the Germans have manners that Americans think are very cold, rude and brusque. If Americans get a German manager (which is happening more and more now), and his English is not good, the German is liable to use the word must all the time, instead of have to. This makes the Americans think he is being dictatorial, even if that is not his intention.

Americans are not the only people who fear the Germans. The French are another example, and there are many more. However, I believe that a very large percentage of Germans also feel that Germany is a country to be feared. If you listen to them enough, you start to notice this.

The software on made part of my message come out like this:

I did not try to use a swear word at all. I used the adjective “blood+y”, meaning that a lot of blood was spilled in those wars. This is a perfectly normal word and is not obscene.

Not unique to English-Test, Jamie-- the software at a lot of sites sometimes edits rather priggishly. I had one student ask about the marked sexes of animals, and I could not type the word for a male game bird. Achilles’ body armour was asterisked into oblivion at another website.

I figured it was really the software package and not the management of the site.

I once had to choose another word when the software wouldn’t accept a perfectly normal word for a quick pulling motion.

I guess it’s okay, though. It challenges our command of English vocabulary and forces everybody to be diplomatic. :slight_smile:

I used to administrate a forum for a community site and we were using the same software - phpbb. It has a feature called word censors which allows you to enter words that are not permitted in the forum discussions. If blood+y is one of them it means that considers this word as bad ;-). Acutally, you can check which words are in the censor filter by typing in swear words and see what happens…