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Twentieth-Century Borrowings from German to English

Their Semantic Integration and Contextual Usage


Julia Schultz

While there are plenty of studies on the impact English has exerted on the German language, the reverse contact situation has been relatively neglected. This monograph sets out to shed light on the German influence on the English lexicon in the twentieth century. It provides the first systematic appraisal of the semantic integration and contextual usage of the words adopted from German in the past few decades. The results presented in this study are based on the evaluation of a comprehensive lexicographical corpus of 1958 twentieth century German borrowings retrieved from the Oxford English Dictionary Online. The present-day usage of the borrowings is illustrated with linguistic documentary evidence collected from a wide range of English language corpora.
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Chapter Three Summary and Conclusion

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Chapter Three

Summary and Conclusion

This investigation contributes to present day research in the field of English lexicology. It constitutes an up-to-date study of a significant proportion of the foreign words in the English language: the sum of German borrowings entering English during the twentieth century.

On the basis of the extensive linguistic evidence provided by the OED and additional electronic databases and corpora, it was possible to give a comprehensive overview and a detailed description of the great variety of the lexical items adopted from German into English in the recent past.

The body of German borrowings included in this study encompasses 1958 items. Of these, only 121 words and meanings (i.e. 6.2%) are part of the core vocabulary attested in EFL dictionaries (For a list of all the German borrowings included in EFL dictionaries such as the LDOCE and/or the OALD see the appendix of the present analysis).

Various types of lexical borrowing could be identified among the twentieth century borrowings presented in this study. As has become obvious, a considerable number of them are adaptations and loan translations, such as existentialism, which is derived from the German noun Existentialismus, and the fairly common term pecking order, translating the German Hackordnung. In addition, we find a significant proportion of direct loans among the German derived words, such as the borrowing Übermensch, pronounced /ˈu:bəmεnʃ/ in present day English according to OED2. It is evident that both the spelling and the pronunciation of the item reflect its German origin. In addition, there are several hybrids in the OED entries, encompassing hybrid compounds such as faltboat, which corresponds to the German noun Faltboot, and the hybrid phrase Teller mine, a borrowing from German Tellermine.

The word routinisation serves as example of a semantic loan. The word has been attested since 1916 in English in the meaning of “[t]he imposition of routine on something previously less systematized or controlled; the fact of being or becoming routine in character or operation” (OED3). Under the impact of German, routinisation adopted a specific meaning from sociology in 1942, which is illustrated by the following OED3 citation:

“1942 T. Parsons in Rev. Polit.4 73 Charismatic movements which … may readily, in the process of routinization, lead in a traditionalistic direction.” ← 281 | 282 →

This meaning was borrowed from the German associate Veralltäglichung.

A close review of the recent borrowings from German has revealed that loan renditions (e.g. ice beer), loan creations (e.g. philopatry), pseudo-loans (e.g. sitzkrieg), and back borrowings (e.g. antivirus) are in the minority. Of these, ice beer renders the German compound Eisbock, literally ‘ice bock,’ the name of a variety of lager. The word philopatry, a zoological term which specifies a form of animal behaviour, was formed from the combining forms philo- and -patry in English, after the German noun Ortstreue, literally meaning ‘site fidelity.’

There is also the pseudo-loan sitzkrieg, which refers to “[a] war, or part of a war, marked by a (relative) absence of active hostilities; spec. that phase of the war of 1939–45 lasting from September 1939 to May 1940; a ‘phoney war’” (OED2). It was coined from German elements on the model of the twentieth century borrowing blitzkrieg, which entered English in the context of the Second World War. A German equivalent term does not exist. As to antivirus, the word was initially adopted from German into English as a technical term in medicine and biology, and it subsequently re-entered the original donor language in a new sense from the field of computing (usually as a premodifying element in formations such as Antivirus-Software).

As to the various word classes of the German derived items surveyed in this analysis, the body of twentieth century borrowings comprises 1548 nouns, 250 adjectives, 129 noun phrases, 16 verbs, five adjective phrases, five interjections, four adverbs and one adverbial phrase. It is evident that nouns represent about 79% of the German twentieth century borrowings listed in the OED.

1. The chronological distribution of twentieth century German borrowings

The chronological distribution of the German borrowings adopted into English in the twentieth century and the number of words and meanings in each subject area and sphere of life are shown in the following tables96: ← 282 | 283 →

TimeNumber of Borrowings
1970–1979  32
1980–1989  17
1990–1999   6
2000–2009   0
2010–2015   0

Clearly, the great majority of German borrowings were assumed into English during the first three decades of the twentieth century. There is a considerable decrease in borrowing after 1939 and especially towards the end of the twentieth century. No German words have been so far borrowed into English in the twenty ← 283 | 284 → first century. The latest German derived words and meanings recorded in the OED date from the 1990s.

The extent of the German impact on the different areas and spheres of life has been investigated in the present survey. The following overview shows the numbers and percentages of adopted words and meanings in the various subject fields and their subareas. The fields are sorted by the proportions of borrowings in ascending order:

(1) Miscellaneous (14 borrowings, i.e. 0.7%)

(2) Culture and History (28 borrowings, i.e. 1.4%)

(2.1) Culturology and Cultural History (5 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%) ← 284 | 285 →

(2.2) Africa (6 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(2.3) Archaeology (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(2.4) Anthropology (10 borrowings, i.e. 0.5%)

(3) Leisure and Pleasure (31 borrowings, i.e. 1.6%)

(3.1) Games (5 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(3.2) Entertainment and Leisure Activities (9 borrowings, i.e. 0.5%)

(3.3) Sports (17 borrowings, i.e. 0.9%)

(4) Technology (54 borrowings, i.e. 2.8%)

(4.1) Nautics and Aeronautics (4 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(4.2) Photography (4 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(4.3) Electronics, Telecommunications, and Computing (5 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(4.4) Astronomy and Astronautics (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(4.5) Metallurgy (9 borrowings, i.e. 0.5%)

(4.6) Manufacturing, Machinery, and Electrical Engineering (25 borrowings, i.e. 1.3%)

(5) Gastronomy (67 borrowings, i.e. 3.4%)

(5.1) Restaurants and Bars (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(5.2) Drink (3 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(5.2.1) Beer and Brewing (6 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(5.2.2) Wine (14 borrowings, i.e. 0.7%)

(5.3) Cookery (37 borrowings, i.e. 1.9%)

(6) The Fine Arts and Crafts (76 borrowings, i.e. 3.9%)

(6.1) Architecture (4 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(6.2) Typography, Printing, and Engraving (5 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(6.3) Literature (15 borrowings, i.e. 0.8%)

(6.4) Art (16 borrowings, i.e. 0.8%)

(6.4.1) Glass Art and Pottery (5 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(6.5) Music (31 borrowings, i.e. 1.6%)

(7) People and Everyday Life (92 borrowings, i.e. 4.7%)

(7.1) Monetary Units (4 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(7.2) Clothing (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(7.3) Transport and Travelling (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(7.4) Animal Rearing, Agriculture, Forestry, and Horticulture (14 borrowings, i.e. 0.7%)

(7.5) Society, Human Behaviour, Characteristics, and Feelings (60 borrowings, i.e. 3.1%) ← 285 | 286 →

(8) Mathematics and The Humanities (127 borrowings, i.e. 6.5%)

(8.1) Theology and Religion (14 borrowings, i.e. 0.7%)

(8.2) Philosophy (26 borrowings, i.e. 1.3%)

(8.2.1) Logic (8 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(8.3) Mathematics (31 borrowings, i.e. 1.6%)

(8.4) Language and Linguistics (48 borrowings, i.e. 2.5%)

(9) Civilisation and Politics (162 borrowings, i.e. 8.3%)

(9.1) Educational System and Academia (4 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(9.2) Social Sciences and Sociology (12 borrowings, i.e. 0.6%)

(9.3) Police, Espionage, Criminalistics and Law (11 borrowings, i.e. 0.6%)

(9.4) Economy, Finances and Banking (12 borrowings, i.e. 0.6%)

(9.5) Politics (53 borrowings, i.e. 2.7%)

(9.6) War and the Military (70 borrowings, i.e. 3.6%)

(10) The Natural Sciences (1307 borrowings, i.e. 66.8%)

(10.1) Geography (2 borrowings, i.e. 0.1%)

(10.1.1) Cartography (2 borrowings, i.e. 0.1%)

(10.2) Meteorology (6 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(10.3) Physical Geography and Geomorphology (13 borrowings, i.e. 0.7%)

(10.4) Physics (59 borrowings, i.e. 3.0%)

(10.5) Mineralogy and Crystallography (78 borrowings, i.e. 4.0%)

(10.6) Geology (85 borrowings, i.e. 4.3%)

(10.6.1) Palaeontology (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(10.7) Biology (102 borrowings, i.e. 5.2%)

(10.7.1) Mycology (3 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(10.7.2) Microbiology (4 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

( Bacteriology (3 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(10.7.3) Genetics (25 borrowings, i.e. 1.3%)

(10.7.4) Ecology (32 borrowings, i.e. 1.6%)

(10.7.5) Cell Biology and Cytology (41 borrowings, i.e. 2.1%)

(10.7.6) Botany (47 borrowings, i.e. 2.4%)

(10.7.7) Zoology (55 borrowings, i.e. 2.8%)

( Entomology (13 borrowings, i.e. 0.7%)

(10.8) Medicine (182 borrowings, i.e. 9.3%)

(10.8.1) Embryology (5 borrowings, i.e. 0.3%)

(10.8.2) Veterinary Medicine (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(10.8.3) Surgery (7 borrowings, i.e. 0.4%)

(10.8.4) Immunology (11 borrowings, i.e. 0.6%) ← 286 | 287 →

(10.8.5) Histology (13 borrowings, i.e. 0.7%)

(10.8.6) Ophthalmology (16 borrowings, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.8.7) Anatomy (18 borrowings, i.e. 0.9%)

(10.8.8) Pharmacy and Pharmacology (37 borrowings, i.e. 1.9%)

(10.8.9) Psychology and Psychiatry (67 borrowings, i.e. 3.4%)

( Spiritualism and Parapsychology (4 borrowings, i.e. 0.2%)

(10.9) Chemistry (197 borrowings, i.e. 10.1%)

(10.9.1) Physical Chemistry (32 borrowings, i.e. 1.6%)

(10.9.2) Biochemistry (134 borrowings, i.e. 6.8%)

Clearly, the greatest number of borrowings acquired from German in the twentieth century are natural science terms, most of which are not known to the “average” speaker of English. The natural sciences with their different branches constitute the area on which the impact of German was strongest: nearly 70% of the words and meanings taken over from German during the twentieth century can be assigned to this field. Of the domains related to the natural sciences, the fields of medicine and chemistry in particular include a comparatively high percentage of borrowings. One may conclude that the considerable influx of borrowings from these areas shows that German science must have played an essential role in international research in the recent past. The massive borrowing of words from the natural sciences may be due to the advancement and innovations in these fields in Germany, which may have resulted in the coining of new terms a number of which were subsequently introduced into English.

Most of the borrowings in cartography, physics, mineralogy and crystallography, palaeontology, biology, microbiology, ecology, botany, zoology, entomology, medicine, pharmacy and pharmacology, psychology and psychiatry, chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry entered English during the first three quarters of the twentieth century. Metereology, physical geography and geomorphology, geology, genetics, cell biology and cytology, surgery, immunology, ophthalmology, and anatomy are the domains where the influence of German was most intense during the first half of the twentieth century. Geography, mycology, bacteriology, embryology, veterinary medicine, histology, spiritualism, and parapsychology are the areas where the majority of German borrowings were assumed in the earlier decades of the twentieth century.

In regards to the individual subgroups of the various major subject areas aside from the natural sciences, the largest proportions of German borrowings are included in the fields of war and the military (70 borrowings), politics (53 borrowings), society, human behaviour, characteristics and feelings (60 borrowings), language and linguistics (48 borrowings), cookery (37 borrowings), mathematics ← 287 | 288 → (31 borrowings), and music (31 borrowings). This result illustrates that German added to the differentiation of the English lexicon in manifold subject areas and spheres of life. The reader may observe that German enriched English not only with a significant amount of technical terms occurring in specialised language but also with borrowings denoting everyday matters.

‘Civilisation and politics’ constitutes the second largest super category to which German made essential lexical contributions in the twentieth century. As already emphasised, the largest proportions of borrowings from this area refer to politics, war, and the military. These varieties of words show to how great an extent political developments and events, as well as military conflicts may influence a language. It is noteworthy that the words and meanings that have to do with the Third Reich and the Second World War make up a substantial number of the twentieth century borrowings from German. These types of lexical items represent the linguistic remains of the Nazi regime in Germany, which lasted from 1939–45.

The number of lexical items in ‘mathematics and the humanities’ indicates that German might be considered a language of knowledge and sophistication which has enriched English in several different “academic” domains, such as theology and religion, philosophy, logic, mathematics, language, and linguistics.

An additional area that encompasses a comparatively large number of borrowings is the field of people and everyday life, comprising the subgroups monetary units, clothing, transport and travelling, animal rearing, agriculture, forestry and horticulture, society, human behaviour, characteristics, and feelings. The diversity of German borrowings in this group of word illustrates how many-faceted and varied life has become in recent times.

The present study has shown that there are some areas influenced by German in the earlier decades of the twentieth century only: archaeology, glass art and pottery, the educational system, and academia. It should be noted that in the majority of subject fields German made its contribution felt in the form of borrowings mainly in the first half of the twentieth century. An exception is the “modern” domain of electronics, telecommunications and computing, where most of the borrowings from German are first attested in English after 1950.

In most of the subject fields, the influx of German borrowings ceased in the second half of the twentieth century. Among the areas where the impact of German covers a fairly long time span (i.e. lasting from the beginning of the twentieth century to the 1990s) are the fields of beer and brewing, society, human behaviour, characteristics and feelings, theology and religion, politics, and chemistry. Examples of recent borrowings from these areas are ice beer, a variety of beer reflecting the German word Eisbock, Wessi, “a West German” (1997 OED ← 288 | 289 → ADD Series), Miaphysite, a technical term in church history, subsidiarity, which assumed a meaning in social politics in 1992, and meitnerium, the name of a type of chemical element. No more borrowings have so far been recorded since 1992 in the OED.

As was seen, the different areas and spheres of life presented in this investigation include a considerable number of twentieth century German borrowings which rarely occur or have become historical in present day English, ranging from highly specific technical terms in the natural sciences, (e.g. borrowings in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry etc.), the fine arts and crafts (e.g. words and meanings which have to do with art and literature), to borrowings related to war and the military or people and everyday life. Progress in science or developing political, cultural or social, etc. situations may be the reasons why particular lexical items are no longer used in English. Yet, a careful perusal of the linguistic material offered by the OED and corpora of recent usage suggests that for most of the twentieth century borrowings from German, sufficient documentary evidence reflecting their use in present day English is available.

1.1 The chronological distribution of the twentieth century German borrowings that belong to the core vocabulary

In this investigation, much emphasis has been given to the identification and quantity of the comparatively frequent borrowings that belong to the core vocabulary attested in EFL dictionaries. Of the 1958 twentieth century German borrowings, only 121 lexical items (i.e. 6,2%) are fairly common words that are listed in the OALD and/or the LDOCE. The following table illustrates their proportions in the various subject areas: ← 289 | 290 →

The following list provides a rounded picture of the numbers and proportions of the comparatively common German twentieth century borrowings (in ascending order) in the different subject fields and subcategories:

(1) Culture and History (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(1.1) Africa (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(2) Miscellaneous (4 borrowings, i.e. 3.3%)

(3) Technology (4 borrowings, i.e. 3.3%)

(3.1) Nautics and Aeronautics (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(3.2) Manufacturing, Machinery, and Electrical Engineering (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%) ← 290 | 291 →

(3.3) Electronics, Telecommunications, and Computing (2 borrowings, i.e. 1.7%)

(4) Mathematics and The Humanities (6 borrowings, i.e. 5.0%)

(4.1) Philosophy (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(4.1.1) Logic (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(4.2) Language and Linguistics (4 borrowings, i.e. 3.3%)

(5) Leisure and Pleasure (8 borrowings, i.e. 6.6%)

(5.1) Sports (8 borrowings, i.e. 6.6%)

(6) Gastronomy (8 borrowings, i.e. 6.6%)

(6.1) Beer and Brewing (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(6.2) Wine (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(6.3) Cookery (6 borrowings, i.e. 5.0%)

(7) The Fine Arts and Crafts (8 borrowings, i.e. 6.6%)

(7.1) Architecture (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(7.2) Literature (2 borrowings, i.e. 1.7%)

(7.3) Music (2 borrowings, i.e. 1.7%)

(7.4) Art (3 borrowings, i.e. 2.5%)

(8) People and Everyday Life (12 borrowings, i.e. 9.9%)

(8.1) Monetary Units (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(8.2) Clothing (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(8.3) Animal Rearing, Agriculture, Forestry, and Horticulture (4 borrowings, i.e. 3.3%)

(8.4) Society, Human Behaviour, Characteristics, and Feelings (6 borrowings, i.e. 5.0%)

(9) Civilisation and Politics (14 borrowings, i.e. 11.6%)

(9.1) Police, Espionage, Criminalistics, and Law (1 borrowings, i.e. 0.8%)

(9.2) War and the Military (5 borrowings, i.e. 4.1%)

(9.3) Politics (8 borrowings, i.e. 6.6%)

(10) The Natural Sciences (56 borrowings, i.e. 46.3%)

(10.1) Geography (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.1.1) Cartography (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.2) Meteorology (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.3) Physics (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.4) Biology (5 borrowings, i.e. 4.1%)

(10.4.1) Botany (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.4.2) Zoology (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%) ← 291 | 292 →

(10.4.3) Genetics (4 borrowings, i.e. 3.3%)

(10.4.4) Cell Biology and Cytology (4 borrowings, i.e. 3.3%)

(10.5) Medicine (8 borrowings, i.e. 6.6%)

(10.5.1) Veterinary Medicine (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.5.2) Anatomy (1 borrowing, i.e. 0.8%)

(10.5.3) Immunology (2 borrowings, i.e. 1.7%)

(10.5.4) Pharmacy and Pharmacology (3 borrowings, i.e. 2.5%)

(10.5.5) Psychology and Psychiatry (9 borrowings, i.e. 7.4%)

(10.6) Chemistry (8 borrowings, i.e. 6.6%)

(10.6.1) Physical Chemistry (2 borrowings, i.e. 1.7%)

(10.6.2) Biochemistry (3 borrowings, i.e. 2.5%)

From the above list it becomes clear that the proportions of lexical items which constitute a part of the core vocabulary recorded in EFL dictionaries is, to some extent at least, similar to the distribution of the overall number of words and meanings borrowed from German in the twentieth century: a fairly high proportion of the comparatively common borrowings can be found in the domains of ‘civilisation and politics’ and ‘the natural sciences.’ These results indicate that even though a significant number of the borrowings included in these areas are highly specific, technical terms which mainly occur in specialised language, they nevertheless comprise several words and meanings which have made it into everyday speech. Examples of relatively frequent borrowings included in the fields of civilisation and politics are putsch, Third Reich, and blitzkrieg. As to the natural sciences, the domains of medicine and chemistry in particular with their various subbranches show a fairly high number of common twentiethcentury German borrowings, such as chemotherapy, antibody, histamine, gestalt, radon, and allergic.

As far as the subfields of the other major areas aside from the natural sciences are concerned, the domains of politics (eight borrowings), sports (eight borrowings), cookery (eight borrowings), society, human behaviour, characteristics, and feelings (six borrowings) comprise the highest proportions of comparatively widespread words. Of these, the fields of politics, society, human behaviour, characteristics, and feelings in particular constitute two of the areas where the impact of German has been comparatively strong and extends over a relatively long period, i.e. from the very beginning until the later decades of the twentieth century. Examples of fairly common borrowings in these domains are power politics, diktat, Nazi, angst, and pecking order. Examples of borrowings from the field of sports and cookery that seem to be on everyone’s lips are Foosball, to abseil, to dunk, rollmop, quark, and bratwurst. Yet, the influence of German on these two ← 292 | 293 → fields seems to have stopped in the second half of the twentieth century: since the 1960s, no more sports and culinary terms were adopted from German into English according to the OED.

A comparison between the percentages of borrowings which represent the entire body of words and meanings taken over from German in the twentieth century and those which are part of the core vocabulary reveals a significant difference in the distribution of lexical items: while the field of ‘mathematics and the humanities’ constitutes one of the areas with a relatively large amount of all the borrowings acquired from German in the recent past (in all, it consists of 127 lexical items), only six words and meanings from this domain are listed in EFL dictionaries. These results point to the fact that the great majority of borrowings in ‘mathematics and the humanities’ appear to be restricted to academic discourse. It seems rather unlikely that the “ordinary” speaker of English would be familiar with the meaning of terms such as ansatz, for instance, which refers to “[a] mathematical assumption, esp[ecially] about the form of an unknown function, which is made in order to facilitate solution of an equation or other problem” (1997 OED Additions Series). This is equally valid for the term Schallanalyse, a borrowing from philology, which seems to be confined to linguistic contexts, as is shown in OED2:

“1931 Year’s Work Mod. Lang. Studies I. iii. 126 Siever’s ‘Schallanalyse’… is a method of restoring the accentuation of a given textual record by registering and analyzing the reaction of a trained observer, who responds instinctively and directly to the psychological compulsion exerted by the text on any one who reads it aloud.”

As in the case of the borrowing ansatz, Schallanalyse appears to be known only to the specialist.

32 areas and spheres of life lack any borrowing that is part of the core vocabulary. The German influence in the twentieth century has been rather weak in the majority of the subject areas that do not show any comparatively frequent borrowing which belong to the core vocabulary. Among them are the domains of culturology and cultural history, archaeology, anthropology, games, entertainment and leisure activities, photography, astronomy and astronautics, metallurgy, restaurants and bars, drink, typography, printing and engraving, glass art and pottery, transport and travelling, theology and religion, mathematics, educational system and academia, social sciences and sociology, economy, finances and banking, physical geography and geomorphology, mineralogy and crystallography, geology, palaeontology, mycology, microbiology, bacteriology, ecology, entomology, embryology, surgery, histology, ophthalmology, spiritualism and parapsychology. ← 293 | 294 →

2. The semantic analysis of German borrowings

A comprehensive investigation of the meanings and the sense development of German borrowings is missing in previous studies. A close review of the linguistic documentary evidence offered by such English and German corpora and dictionaries as the OED and the Duden Online allowed a detailed description of the semantics of the twentieth century borrowings under consideration.

In the present study, the meaning of the German borrowings has been compared to that of their source terms in the donor language. As already emphasised, several twentieth century borrowings have the same sense(s) as their equivalents in German, whereas others were adopted into English in a particular meaning. An example of a borrowed lexical item that shows a specific application in English in comparison to its equivalent in German is the noun vorlaufer. We established that the borrowing is confined to the field of sports in the receiving language, denoting “[a] skier who travels a course before a race in order to establish a standard by which the competitors are marked” (OED2), while its German associate is used in a more general sense: Vorläufer can refer to any ‘precursor’ or ‘forerunner’ in the donor language. A similar case is the German borrowing Ordnung, which equally shows a specific use in English, where it is restricted to contexts referring to the Amish community in the sense of “an unwritten but strictly upheld code of behaviour, reviewed and updated twice yearly by the church’s leaders and subject to endorsement by its members” (OED3):

“1959 Mennonite Encycl. 74/2 All matters of discipline were dealt with and the congregation brought into accord with the ‘Ordnung’ or regulations of the church” (OED3).

As was apparent, several recent borrowings from German deviated from their original meaning. Some of these changes seemed to be internal semantic developments that were not paralleled in German. Spätzle and mutant serve as examples. Spätzle, an acquisition from dialectal German, is the name of a variety of egg noodle dish typical of the cuisine of the South of Germany, as the following OED2 example shows:

“1959 M. Crosland tr. J. Rovan Germany 179 The Spätzle, a kind of fresh pasta from Swabia.”

In corpora of present day usage we find a considerable number of descriptons of unusual recipe modifications of the dish. Exotic variants of the German classic are recorded in AmE in particular. According to these sources, Spätzle can be prepared with several different ingredients, for instance buckwheat, lemon, or chocolate. Examples from LexisNexis are: ← 294 | 295 →

· The New York Times, July 16, 2008; “The Voyage Continues:”

Oceana - that’s the seafood restaurant in Midtown that looks like an ocean liner, right? […] What has long distinguished Oceana and what distinguishes it still is its polyglot approach to its menu, on which different dishes turn in different directions for the sidekicks and seasonings to accompany different fish. […] Arctic char gets a Scandinavia-inspired lingonberry and caraway sauce, as well as some buckwheat spaetzle, and the char is just fleshy and fatty enough not to be clobbered by that company.

· Bon Appétit, June 2009; “NAVIGATOR niagara-on-the-lake, canada:”

Just north of Buffalo sits Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming Victorian town that’s in the heart of Ontario wine country, where some 20,000 acres of vineyards and 98 wineries produce stellar Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and icewine (sweet wine made from frozen grapes). […] For a splurge-worthy meal, Peller is the place. Chef Jason Parsons cooks inventive, perfectly executed food that wows - and pays homage to the winery’s excellent products, including white, red, and sparkling rosé icewines. Try the icewine-glazed duck breast with chocolate spaetzle or the pickerel “saltimbocca,” a take on the classic Italian veal dish that’s made here with fish fresh from Lake Erie.

· States News Service, December 5, 2012; “BIRTHDAY CAKE WITH A SIDE OF SEAFOOD:”

This past Saturday I celebrated my birthday. All I really wanted was to spend the day outside with my family and indulge in a nice adult dinner (read: no toddler crawling on the restaurant floor for his crayon) and a decadent piece of cake. Well, I got both wishes! After strolling the National Mall (gorgeous weather here in metro DC!), I indulged in a piece of cake followed by a deliciously nutritious dinner. […]

The Baked Alaskan Cod with lemon spaetzle and sauteed spinach that my husband ordered was pretty damn good, too. A great source of protein and selenium, the cod was stuffed with crab and lightly breaded with panko and topped with yuzu butter.

Similar variations of the corresponding original dish are not attested in the German dictionaries and databases consulted. Hence it seems likely that the above described recipe variants of Spätzle, which lead to a semantic broadening of the borrowed word on the linguistic level, represent a native sense development of the item in AmE. It looks as if Spätzle constitutes a popular dish especially in the United States, where is seems to be cooked and modified fairly frequently. It has already been underlined that this might be, to some degree at least, related to the German population living in Pennsylvania and other parts of the United States, who wish to retain their cultural heritage, language and customs, encompassing German cookery.

The borrowing mutant originally served as a biological term for an animal, a gene, etc. which was subjected to a mutation process. In this meaning, the word reflects the German source Mutant. The borrowing serves as an example of the group of German derived items that manifested a grammatical semantic development ← 295 | 296 → after their introdution into English. The OED3 informs its users that mutant was converted into an adjective, meaning “[r]esulting from or showing the effects of mutation; having the attributes of a mutant,” as in:

“1903 Amer. Naturalist37 740 The form, habit and behavior of some of the mutant forms discovered by de Vries seventeen years ago” (OED3).

Obviously, the above-cited earliest attested adjectival use of mutant occurs in an American journal. As in the case of Spätzle, an equivalent meaning does not exist in the source language: Mutant is only attested as a noun in German. Furthermore, the borrowing assumed a number of additional senses, one of which is confined to American slang. The relevant meaning is paraphrased as follows in OED3: “[s]omeone regarded as having antisocial or sociopathic tendencies.” The word is occasionally employed as a term of abuse in AmE, as in:

“1989 Rage (Knoxville Tennessee) Rage Oct. 8 These people gotta be mutants!” (OED3).

“1995 Virginia Gaz. 18 Jan. b10/1, 10 years ago, you could walk down the streets of the Historic Area with few fears of muggers and other big city mutants” (OED3).

The word mutant not only serves as an example of a borrowing which shows a sense development which is not related to German, but also of the types of German derived words which developed a meaning or show a particular usage within AmE. A comparable example of this phenomenon is the borrowing kegler. According to OED2, kegler only occurs in North AmE in the sense of “[o]ne who plays tenpin bowling, skittles, ninepins, etc.” This is illustrated by the following OED2 quotation:

“1932 Lincoln (Nebraska) State Jrnl. 9 Mar. Floyd Olds … began calling the pin topplers, keglers, and the folk in Cleveland began looking at him askance.”

The borrowing is derived from the German word Kegler, which refers to ‘a skittle-player.’

From the present study it also emerged that a number of twentieth century borrowings manifested semantic developments that appeared to be induced by the continuing influence of German on English, as was the case with Übermensch and Zugzwang. The former intitially entered English as a term related to Nietzschean philosophy for “an ideal superior man of the future who transcends conventional Christian morality to create and impose his own values” (OED3), as is exemplified by the earlier usage examples of the word available in OED2:

“1902 Pall Mall XXVI. 405/1 Where Bismarck exerted the full … strength of the Uebermensch, Bülow always remains the polite orator.” ← 296 | 297 →

“1907 G. B. Shaw Major Barbara Pref. 152 It is assumed, on the strength of the single word Superman (Übermensch) borrowed by me from Nietzsche, that I look for the salvation of society to the despotism of a single Napoleonic Superman.”

Übermensch developed an extended use in English, where it may also be used as a synonym of superman in the sense of “a man of extraordinary power of ability; a superior being” (OED3), as in:

“1950 R. P. Blesh & H. Janis They all played Ragtime v. 85 A subtle but devastating caricature of the white Übermensch, employing the blackface like an African ceremonial mask” (OED2).

“1963 Economist 13 July 103/1 Doctor and detective übermenschen” (OED2).

As already pointed out, the German counterpart Übermensch was subjected to a parallel semantic broadening which might have influenced the relevant use of the borrowing in English.

The borrowing Zugzwang is labelled as a chess term in OED2, where its definition reads as follows: “[a] position in which a player is obliged to move but cannot do so without disadvantage; the disagreeable obligation to make such a move.” Yet the word is recorded in a more general use in present day English that is not explicitly mentioned in the unrevised edition of OED2. A check of recent corpora suggests that by extension, Zugzwang can relate to an event or a situation in which the duty or constraint to take action is required and essential, but may have a negative impact or outcome. Corpora reflecting current language use comprise the following example:

· The Daily Best Company LLC, September 30, 2015, “Putin’s ‘Every Move Worsens the Situation’ - in Syria and Russia:”

Until recently, one-third Russians said they had no interest at all in Syria. Just 18 percent welcomed the idea of providing military support to Bashar al-Assad, according to a national survey this month by Levada Center pollsters.

Public opinion did not seem a significant factor in Vladimir Putin’s decision-making Wednesday: No sooner had the Russian president returned from his meetings and speech at the United Nations in New York then he asked the Russian senate to allow him to use the country’s military. […] The senators’ vote quickly inspired sarcastic jokes on social media: “Russian pensions fly to Syria.” Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, one of the few people Putin has called his friend, predicted that in 2016 Russians would grow even poorer. “We have ended up in Zugzwang,” Kudrin told the Vedomosti newspaper, using a chess term - it means “When every move worsens the situation.” for foreign combat missions (LexisNexis). ← 297 | 298 →

The German original Zugzwang is both documented as a term in chess or in a transferred meaning, just as the borrowing in English is. Hence one might conclude that the change in meaning in English could have been induced by German.

The aforementioned cases of Spätzle and Zugzwang fall into the category of borrowings that show a meaning or implication in recent corpora which has not yet been made explicit in the unrevised edition of OED2. This result stresses the importance of the use and analysis of electronic corpora in the field of lexicology, which have become indispensable tools in modern linguistics. Further examples of twentieth century borrowings for which positive evidence of an additional sense, connotation or pragmatic-contextual usage could be found in corpora such as LexisNexis, the BNC, or the COCA are untergang, Sitzfleisch, spritzer, Gestapo, to spritz, and to stylise.

The reader may have expected that especially borrowings that are used comparatively frequently in present day English tend to manifest a greater variability in meaning than rare or specialised, technical terms. The direct loan litzendraht, for instance, a highly specific designation for a type of electronic wire, and schreierpfeife, a term for “[a] musical instrument of the variety collectively known as schryari” (OED2), are examples of borrowings which do not diverge from their original meaning. This does not hold for antivirus, allergy, allergic, pecking order, superego, object language, magic realism, putsch, and flak, which are part of the core vocabulary listed in EFL dictionaries. They represent some of the fairly common terms that widened their semantic scope over time. Of these, flak, for instance, was first attested as a term from the field of war and military in English, denoting a type of gun or “anti-aircraft fire” (OED2). In this use, the word reflects the initial letters of the German word Fliegerabwehrkanone ‘pilot-defence-gun.’ Some time after its earliest recorded use in the receiving language, flak showed a second, more abstract meaning in English: it may also function as a designation for ‘severe criticism.’ Both senses of the borrowing are listed in EFL dictionaries such as the OALD. Magic realism, translating the German magischer Realismus, initially served as an art term for a variety of painting style. The meaning of the word then developed further. In present day English, magic realism can also occur in a more general use in the sense of “any artistic or esp. literary style in which realistic techniques such as naturalistic detail, narrative, etc., are similarly combined with surreal or dreamlike elements” (OED3).

As has become apparent in the present study, several different types of twentieth century German borrowings underwent a semantic change. The various examples described above illustrate that sense development is not confined to borrowed lexical items which relate to “abstract” thoughts, ideas, conceptions etc., such as ← 298 | 299 → the loan translation magic realism, but that it can equally concern words denoting “concrete” objects, phenomena etc. (e.g. Spätzle, mutant). Sometimes even names for persons and designations for animals show shifts in meaning (cf. the semantic development of Nazi and Rottweiler described in the following chapter on the pragmatic-contextual use and the stylistic functions of German borrowings).

Borrowings reflecting the names of facilities, organisations, institutions, products, etc. generally do not deviate from their senses. Examples are Reichschancellery, “[t]he building or premises occupied by the office of the Reichschancellor” (OED3), Baader-Meinhof, a terrorist organisation active in Germany between 1970 and 1998, and goldwasser, the name for a type of liquor.

Since the aforementioned Baader-Meinhof gang is no longer operating, the word can be adduced as an example of the group of twentieth century borrowings which only occur in historical contexts in present day English, e.g.

“1999 W. Z. Laqueur New Terrorism 93 The slogan of the second generation of Baader Meinhof … was ‘the system had made us kaput, we shall destroy the system’” (OED3).

“2001 D. J. Whittaker Terrorism Reader (2002) xiii. 183 The subject of this case-study is the Red Army Faction …, once known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang” (OED3).

A number of further borrowings analysed in this study show a meaning which has become historical in English as a result of changes and developents in political, economic, social, cultural, etc. history, for instance the specific application of the term Wirtschaftswunder with reference to “the economic recovery of the Federal Republic of West Germany after the Second World War (1939–45)” (OED3). An additional example is the borrowing minenwerfer, designating a type of mine-thrower used by German soldiers in the First World War:

“1915 Illustr. London News 13 Feb. 204/2 The Germans..had actually provided … themselves with mortars of this description, the so-called minen-werfer - mine-throwers” (OED3).

There is also the borrowing Rheingold (more fully Rheingold Express), “[a] luxury train which ran along the course of the Rhine between the Hook of Holland (near Rotterdam) and Basel” (OED3). As the Rheingold Express stopped operating in 1987, it is restricted in its use to historical contexts, just like the afore-mentioned examples Baader-Meinhof gang, Wirtschaftwunder and minenwerfer. This is exemplified in a 2000 OED3 citation:

“2000 C. Williams Adenauer xiv. 531 His train, the ‘Rheingold Express’, collided with a tractor which had stalled on a level crossing.” ← 299 | 300 →

Some twentieth century German borrowings have become rare or obsolete as a result of progress in science and technology. OED3 informs its users that the word punctograph, for instance, which was borrowed from German Punktograph as term for a type of device employed in surgery, is now disused. The same holds for its German source term. The only usage example of the borrowing available in OED3 is from 1901:

“1901 Lancet 4 May 1292/1 For the surgical localisation of foreign bodies, such as bullets embedded in the tissues, he [sc. Dr. Rosenthal of Munich] had, in conjunction with Surgeon-General Professor von Angerer, devised an instrument called the ‘punktograph.’”

It thus looks as if punctographs are no longer in use today.

3. The pragmatic-contextual use and the stylistic function of German borrowings

This analysis has given a comprehensive description of the pragmatic-contextual use and the stylistic functions of twentieth century German borrowings in English, which have so far been incompletely surveyed in existing studies. In the present investigation, much importance has been ascribed to the documentary evidence included in the OED, which reflects the typical context in which a word is attested from its first recorded use in English up to the present day. Hence, the OED quotations constitute valuable linguistic material for identifying the stylistic function of a borrowing. The documentation evidence provided by corpora for instance the BNC, the COCA or LexisNexis may also offer some indication of the contextual use of a lexical item.

The stylistic functions that were assumed by twentieth century German borrowings are local colour, precision, tone, vividness, and variation of expression.

3.1 Local colour

We observed that German borrowings could be used to create local colour, in order to portray the peculiarities and characteristics of a German setting and its inhabitants. This is apparent in the following newspaper article, which deals with an Australian couple travelling to the city of Heidelberg in the South of Germany at Christmas time:

Southern Highland News, December 23, 2014: “Best thing this Christmas is the wurst”

WE have never been in the northern hemisphere for Christmas before, but our delightful travels these past few weeks have taken us on trains, trams and shanks pony through interesting cities, friendly villages, occasional drizzle, short days, gloomy skies, cobbled streets and winter comfort food, to the delightful German town of Heidelberg. ← 300 | 301 →

The things Barbara will do to avoid cooking Christmas dinner, eh!

BEFORE leaving Australia we were looking forward to our first white Christmas, but I was dreading the endless Christmas markets.

I am not a shopper and thankfully, neither is Barbara, but I must confess to really enjoying the wurst and mulled wine at these popular European Christmas markets.

I love sausages anytime, but a spicy bratwurst and a warm glass of Gluhwein is just the tonic on a dank cold wintery day.

I am told that these traditional Christmas festivities, with bright lights, jolly decorations, hearty food and cockle-warming drinks, evolved out of a need to brighten up long dark European winters.

Whenever the sun does make a rare appearance in this part of the world, it gets out of bed late, crawls up the sky a bit then sinks back down to wherever it sleeps, very early in the afternoon.

But it rarely bothers even getting out of bed during December up here.

ONE cracking drink in these parts is called Feuerzangenbowle.

Try saying that after your third glass […] (LexisNexis).

Aside from the German place name Heidelberg, the above article encompasses several terms for typical German drinks and specialities, such as the borrowings bratwurst, wurst, glühwein, and the German word Feuerzangenbowle. The various lexical items increase the German ambiance of the location and make the depicted scene appear more authentic and picturesque.

It may also be that borrowings are chosen to heighten the culture specific atmosphere outside the linguistic boundaries of Germany. This is exemplified in the following extract taken from an American newspaper, which is about the annual Oktoberfest organised by the German Liederkranz singing society in Pennsylvania:

Reading Eagle (Pennsylvania), October 2, 2014: “Liederkranz opens 5-day run of annual Oktoberfest”

Oct. 02 - Hoisting a pitcher of Spaten Oktoberfest beer Wednesday evening, Carin Stunz kicked off the Reading Liederkranz Oktoberfest atop Mount Penn.

“Are you ready for five days of fun?” Stunz, dressed in a traditional German dirndl outfit, asked as she served the beer.

Patterned after the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, the Liederkranz version offers a lineup of German music, dancing and ethnic food on its grounds at 143 Spook Lane, Lower Alsace Township. ← 301 | 302 →

Gates open at 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

A festival banner with “Auf Wiedersehen” greeted visitors on opening night. […]

At the Liederkranz today’s program features “The Continentals” band and the GTV Edelweiss Schuhplattlers, the Liederkranz dance troupe.

Accordionist Kermit Ohlinger, wearing lederhosen and a Bavarian alpine hat, led the opening night crowd in the traditional German drinking song.

Beer steins raised, they sang, “Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit.” (A toast, a toast to happiness) (LexisNexis).

As is evident, the above article contains additional German borrowings besides Oktoberfest, for instance dirndl (in the hybrid phrase dirndl outfit), Schuhplattlers, and lederhosen. The salutation auf Wiedersehen and the song line ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit, which are rendered in their actual German voices, increase the authenticity of the described scene.

We also noticed that a German borrowing is deliberately used to convey the culture specific tone of a statement or an expression. The word Schweinehund, for instance, a term of abuse, meaning “filthy dog, ‘swine,’ ‘bastard’” (OED2), may serve this purpose.

The Globe and Mail (Canada), December 20, 1988: “THE TORONTONIAN QUICK WITTED The world’s fastest columnist needs all the help and yogurt he can get”


Here is my New Year’s resolution for 1989: I want to become the fastest columnist on Earth. When it comes out that I have achieved my lightning speed at the keys by loading my body with frozen yogurt, the kind where they put in real fruit, it will not matter. Der Spiegel will buy my story for $3 million. With a good agent, I can probably get them to throw in a vintage Mercedes 300SL and a night at the tables in Baden-Baden. I’m not sure just what the drill is in the West German syndicated-magazine-expose industry, but I don’t think they’d back away from a deal because it included a flutter at Baden. They might put a ceiling on the bets, but that would be about it.

Once Der Spiegel has made me famous, I will start to endorse things like paper and become a crillionaire able to blow my own dough at Baden. If the accountant at Der Spiegel thinks I am blowing too much, I can yell “Schweinehund!” at him, which is something you don’t get to do in the normal run of writing […] (LexisNexis).

As is obvious, the “Germanic” term of abuse is put into the mouth of an English speaker who wishes to become a columnist for the German magazine Der Spiegel and thinks about his future life in the city of Baden-Baden. The emotional moment of the scene, i.e. when the author imagines his verbal insult of the accountant of Der Spiegel who may not appreciate his work, is given in German. The ← 302 | 303 → reader may immediately identify this expression as a cultural clue that adds to the creation of an image of the German source culture.

Borrowings that relate to foreign locations, objects, persons, occurrences, phenomena, institutions, etc. typical of Germany are relatively frequently documented in German speaking contexts in the OED and in electronic databases. Examples of areas and spheres of life which comprise exoticisms and borrowings which are chiefly used as culture specific terms in a German context or in contexts somehow associated with Germany are the fields of culturology and cultural history, Africa, entertainment and leisure activities, restaurants and bars, cookery, monetary units, transport and travelling, society, human behaviour, characteristics and feelings, educational system and academia, police, espionage, criminalistics and law, economy, finances and banking, politics, war, and the military. The borrowing autobahn, for instance, is an exoticism. It is used as a culture specific term for “a fast road for cars; a motorway” (OED3) in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, as in:

“1987 Rotarian Feb. 31/1 The autobahn highways and other major roads are the best in Europe” (OED3).

“2002 C. Petit Human Pool (2003) 104 Hire car. Autobahn. No speed limit. I drove as fast as I could” (OED3).

Another example is Fasching, a culture specific term for a variety of festival held in parts of Germany. As in the case of the aforementioned autobahn, the word mainly occurs in German speaking contexts, as is shown in OED2:

“1963 Guardian 21 Feb. 9/5 In Munich we are in the middle of Fasching, which is the South German word for what the Rhineland calls carnival. It began on Epiphany (January 6) and lasts until Shrove Tuesday.”

The OED also includes a number of instances in which the speaker or writer introduces a borrowing in a context that is not related to Germany or a German speaking country. Examples are the German borrowings rollmop and kitsch:

“2007 Sunday Times (Nexis) 4 Feb. 10 The vet jokingly rues the rollmops she’s had for breakfast” (OED3).

The Guardian, January 28, 2013: “Kitsch art: love it or loathe it?”

What is the fascination of kitsch? As two masterpieces of kitsch painting – Vladimir Tretchikoff’s blue-faced Chinese Girl and Salvador Dali’s equally bizarre portrait of Mona Bismarckprepare to go under the hammer, let’s pay homage to the aesthetic that thrives on mockery and critical contempt

(LexisNexis). ← 303 | 304 →

3.2 Precision

Twentieth century German borrowings that have been taken over into English due to a need for precision are included in all the fields and spheres of life identified in this analysis. They may either represent specific or more widespread terms. Examples are the borrowings zugtrompete and angst, which lack a concise equivalent English counterpart and thus fill a semantic gap in the language. The former serves as a technical term for “[a] slide trumpet” (OED2), and the meaning of the fairly common term angst might be paraphrased as “[a]nxiety, anguish, neurotic fear; guilt, remorse” (OED2). Angst belongs to the core vocabulary recorded in EFL dictionaries.

3.3 Tone

An additional stylistic device that is obvious among the borrowings from German is tone. Several twentieth century borrowings show positive, negative, ironical, etc. implications and hence allow the author to create a specific tone in a particular context. As to the culinary vocabulary adopted from German, for instance, the linguistic documentation evidence in the OED and in electronic corpora reveals that in general, German wine seems to have a good reputation. Wines such as trockenbeerenauslese and Qualitätswein are believed to be a sign of superior quality and prestige. It is thus not surprising that quite often there is a laudatory tone noticeable in the available linguistic evidence, as in:

“1972 W. Garner Ditto, Brother Rat! i. 5, I drank so many good wines my tastebuds stopped performing for anything less than a Trockenbeerenauslese” (OED2).

The Globe and Mail (Canada), December 14, 1991: “A sip of Germany’s Mosel region Besides visits to the wineries, you can drink in the scenes of old castles, rolling hills and the winding river”

Then there’s Qualitaetswein, a quality wine made from ripe, very ripe or overripe grapes. The quality wine comes from specific wine growing regions and is made from approved grape varieties which have sufficiently ripened to assure that the wine will have the style and traditional taste of its region (LexisNexis).

Similarly, the usage examples of several culinary terms reflect the speaker’s or writer’s estimation of German (or Austrian) cookery. Speakers of English appear to appreciate and thus occasionally imitate the recipes for items of confectionary such as Sachertorte, as becomes clear from the following passage:, December 14, 1991: “Cunard celebration an outstanding success; Take a look at the latest news from Wirral Met College” ← 304 | 305 →

The celebration of the Three Queens coming into Liverpool last month to mark the 175th anniversary of Cunard gave the Visitor Economy staff at Wirral Met College the inspiration for the theme for this year’s Gala Dinner, which celebrated the 175th anniversary of Cunard Through the Ages. […] The college was very grateful to the sponsors including Crown Brushes, Goldwell, So Coco Rouge, Kath Wilkes, Wella, Dennis Williams and Wirral Met College’s Students’ Union.

Not to be outdone by the hairdressing and beauty students, the catering students also excelled, by serving up canapés and a themed three course gala dinner to over 100 guests. From roasted tomato and butternut squash soup to breast of chicken with brie and asparagus and a delicious Sachertorte for dessert, the catering students were also able to display their outstanding creativity and skills (LexisNexis).

A characteristic of the vocabulary borrowed from German during the twentieth century is the relatively high number of terms that have to do with the Nazi terror under the rule of Adolf Hitler from 1939–45. It is by no means surprising that most of them show derogatory implications. The borrowings Gestapo and Nazi serve as examples. From the linguistic documentation evidence it becomes apparent that Gestapo, which is now confined to historical contexts, shares the same pejorative connotations in English and in German, e.g.

“1940 Mind49 222 Morality … becoming nothing more than subservience to the decrees of a dictator with his Ogpu or Gestapo at his back” (OED2).

· The Express, February 17, 2007; headline: “HITLER’S HATED MEN IN BLACK; The Gestapo was the most feared secret police in history and, as a new documentary reveals, spread its terror into every corner of occupied Europe:”

THEY called it The Knock Of Death - not a polite tap on the front door but a vicious battering. The time was usually between three and four in the morning when human resistance is at its lowest. Open the door and half a dozen men would push their way in. Accompanied by armed guards, they were usually dressed in their long, black leather coats and often sported Fedora hats.

Then they would flash a small disc and utter those most terrifying words: “Gestapo - get dressed and come with us!” It was a grim scenario played out, often nightly, in Germany and occupied Europe and it meant that some hapless citizen was about to experience the most terrifying time of his or her life. Often, it meant death (LexisNexis).

· Kölnische Rundschau, April 1, 2015; headline: ““Rücksichtslosestes Vorgehen”; Jagd auf “verdächtige” Zwangsarbeiter forderte 1944/45 zahlreiche Opfer:”

Eifelland. Im Herbst 1944 wurde in Schleiden ein 30-köpfiges Kommando der gefürchteten Geheimen Staatspolizei (Gestapo) aufgestellt. In den folgenden Monaten verstrickten sich diese Nazi-Greifer in die entsetzlichste Tötungsserie, die es im 20. Jahrhundert im Gebiet des heutigen Kreises Euskirchen gab. Die Blutspur zog sich von Schleiden über den Raum Mechernich bis nördlich von Euskirchen. Dabei starben mehr ← 305 | 306 → als ein Dutzend Menschen, nahezu alle waren Zwangsarbeiter. Sie wurden erschossen und irgendwo abseits verscharrt (LexisNexis).

Nazi, which has become a historical term for “[a] member of the National Socialist German Workers’s Party” or, usually in the plural form, for “the German government or armed forces in the period 1933–45” (OED3) shows a number of additional pejorative uses in English dictionaries and corpora of recent usage. It may, for instance, refer to “a believer in or sympathizer with the aims or doctrines of Nazism or any similar doctrines,” or, in a more general sense, to “a person holding extreme racist (esp. anti-Semitic) or authoritarian views, or behaving in a brutal and bigoted manner” (OED3). This is corroborated by the OED3 quotations, e.g.

“1967 V. Nabokov Let. 1 Jan. in Sel. Lett. (1989) 397 Budding Nazis, blooming Fascists, pogromystics and agents provocateurs, remained on the lurid fringe of Russian intelligentsia.”

“1974 Times 21 May 1/3 Mr Begin described Arab terrorists as ‘the new Nazis’ who made children their targets … adding: ‘We must arm the population to fight these Nazis.’”

Recent OED3 examples including the word Nazi even reveal a hyperbolical tone. In the following quotations, the borrowing is used with reference to “a person who is perceived to be authoritarian, autocratic, or inflexible; one who seeks to impose his or her views upon others” (OED3):

“1982 P. J. O’Rourke in Inquiry 15 Mar. 8/3 The Safety Nazis advocate gun control, vigorous exercise, and health foods.”

“1995 Independent 3 Nov. (Suppl.) 8/2 According to Hutchins, current fitness theory is peddled by ‘nazis’. Aerobics Nazis.”

German dictionaries such as the Duden Online do not record a corresponding use for German.

It may also be that a context in which a German borrowing occurs points to a slightly ironical or critical attitude of the speaker or writer. The following article, for instance, includes a description of an Austrian locality and its typical features. It becomes clear that dirndl, muesli, and Oktoberfest are in some cases stereotypically associated with German speaking countries and thus may be used for cultural stereotyping:

Oxford Mail, April 16, 2015: “Accordions, schnapps and adventure: Austrian enchantment in Lech”

Tim Hughes experiences the delights of traditional Austrian hospitality in Vor Arlberg ← 306 | 307 →

Clemens Walch grins as he surveys the ice-capped peaks around his mountain hut; the spring snow turned a vivid gold by the setting sun.

With his shock of silver hair, checked shirt and green hunting jacket, he fits everyone’s image of the typical Austrian - only enhancing the effect by pouring me a glass of schnapps, picking up an accordion and teasing out a medley of mountain tunes.

His warming homemade hooch burns all the way down, fending off the Alpine chill, but the music is exquisite. As I listen, I spot a mountain goat making its way over the rocks and the mountains turn a deep bruised purple in the fading light. As a quintessential Alpine experience it was approaching cliché: a muesli or chocolate advert on steroids. I half expected Heidi or Julie Andrews to come skipping down the slopes to the sound of an alphorn, accompanied, Disney-style, by a troop of whistling marmots. […]

As one might expect from a hotel run by a model Austrian straight out of central casting, the four-star Hotel Gotthard is the embodiment of Alpine culture.

With its pitched roof, expanses of stripped pine and long balconies it certainly looks the part. So do its staff - women, including Clemens’s Australian wife Nicole, turned out in extravagant dirndl dresses and men in the obligatory checked shirts - as if dressed for Oktoberfest (LexisNexis).

3.4 Vividness

Furthermore, a borrowing may be used for the sake of vividness. The word Rottweiler, for instance, which originally designated a type of dog, assumed a further meaning in English. By metaphor, it can relate to “[a]n aggressive or tenacious person” (OED3), as in:

“1998 A. Martin Bilton ix. 104 He’s got a good thing going: an absolute Rottweiler in his interviewing technique, but he’s got this very nice sideline with his interest in butterflies” (OED3).

The reader may observe that Rottweiler occurs for stylistic reasons in order to enhance the vividness of the described situation. One may argue that the figurative use of the borrowing renders the piece of writing more expressive and picturesque.

3.5 Variation of expression

The following two passages collected from LexisNexis illustrate that a German borrowing such as the interjection gesundheit may contribute to the stylistic variation of a piece of writing or a conversation: ← 307 | 308 →

Newcastle Herald (Australia), August 6, 2011: “TIPPLE - BEER; TIPPLE”

Schofferhofer Hefeweizen *** Germany 5% Typical price: per 500ml bottle Schofferhofer hefeweizen. Gesundheit! For a beer with a name that sounds like a sneezing fit, this stuff isn’t too bad. […]

The ultimate owner of the Schofferhofer label is the giant German food group Dr. Oetker, well-loved by the National Socialists back in the cheery Hitler years. Schofferhofer Hefeweizen (bless you!) is an unfiltered wheat beer, with suspended yeasty bits making it cloudy and with a fair bit of carbonated fizz to balance the bitterness.


[…] He didn’t sneeze during that segment. His essay this week is achoo, achoo, gesundheit, achoo, bless you, achoo. You can see that out at PIMCO. It’s a smart, smart note on some of the rate dynamics and how they fold into what our central bank does with economic policy. Bill Gross with us on jobs day.

In the relevant extracts, gesundheit functions as an alternative interjection for the semantically related English expression bless you, which is equally used to wish somebody good health.

4. The present status of German vis-à-vis English

As already emphasised, there has been an overall decrease in the assumption of German borrowings during the twentieth century. An inspection of the lexical items recorded in the OED reveals that no more German borrowings have entered English since 1992. We established that a rich variety of lexical items were taken over from German into English, among them a significant number of technical terms from the natural sciences in particular, as well as words belonging to a more general vocabulary.

There are various hypotheses that may explain why German has ceased to be an important donor language in the course of the twentieth century. The changing status of German in English in the past century may be related to the extensive spread of English and its American variant over Europe, replacing languages such as German or French as lingua francas. Busse and Görlach (2004: 14) state that the increasing impact of English has affected the German language itself, which has been infiltrated by English words since the 1939–1945 war in particular:

After 1945, as elsewhere in Europe, the impact of English, in BrE or AmE form, became massive. In (western) Germany, this can partly be explained as a reaction to the ← 308 | 309 → xenophobic Nazi system, which had tried to be largely self-sufficient economically – and linguistically/culturally […]. The impact of the Anglo-American re-education policy was reflected in newspapers, magazines, plays, films, and popular music. Since the immediate post-war phase the political and cultural orientation towards the United States has led to a broad and steadily growing influx of Anglo-American loanwords […].

Ammon (2004: 164) comments on the development of German science during the rule of the Nazis, outlining that

The Nazi period stands out, among other atrocities, as a spectacular example of a country’s scientific self-destruction. By as early as 1936, 1,617 university professors and researchers had been expelled, not only Jews, of whom 1,160 went to English-speaking countries, 825 of them to the USA […]. As a consequence of Nazism the country was in ruin and there were virtually no resources left for science. A huge brain drain, again mainly to the USA, followed.

The lack of scientific resources as a direct consequence of the Nazi period might be regarded as a decisive factor for the dwindling influence of Germany in international research, which may have resulted in a reduced introduction of new German science terms in the years following the Second World War.

Busse and Görlach (2004: 14) adduce several factors instrumental in the growing influence of AmE on German in recent decades:

Since the 1990s the huge impact of American culture and its linguistic reflexes have become more intense. Worldwide communication via the Internet, globalization of national economies resulting in multinational corporations, and commercial television with its advertisements and videoclips have led to a new dimension of lexical borrowings and code-switching, at least in the technical languages of business and commerce, computing, advertising, and youth language. This unabashed influx has partly provoked hostile reactions […].

Eichhoff (2002: 266) states that in the English press, which is considered a gateway of new words and phrases into the language, on the other hand, topics related to Germany occupy the centre of attention less and less often, which may have resulted in a diminished introduction of German borrowings into English:

In der Presse-Berichterstattung, aus der heraus das eine oder andere Wort wenigstens für eine gewisse Zeit sich zu etablieren vermochte, z.B. Ostpolitik (seit 1961, teilassimiliert auch ostpolitik), oder Gastarbeiter (seit 1970, in übersetzter Form als guest worker weiterhin verwendet) stehen deutsche Themen immer seltener im Mittelpunkt, seitdem sich das weltpolitische Interesse auf andere Schauplätze verlagert hat. […]

Another essential reason for the vanishing impact of German on English may be related to the teaching of foreign languages, which has been greatly reduced in England. Hoberg (2004: 94) emphasises that: ← 309 | 310 →

During the last few years I have had the opportunity to study the situation of German Studies and the teaching of German as a foreign language in many countries. This allowed me to establish two things: firstly that universities, schools, other educational institutions are accomplishing an impressive amount with regard to linguistic, literary, and didactic studies, curricula, teaching materials and the practice of teaching; secondly that the numbers of those learning is not very high – for the most part the numbers have decreased starkly in recent years – above all because it is difficult to motivate people to learn German.

In my view the motivation problem is the greatest one in the area of German as a foreign language. Even people who highly appreciate Germany and Germans or residents of other German-speaking countries often do not understand why they should learn German. After all, they can get along well with English in the center of Europe and more generally in contact with those whose mother tongue is German. […]

The shrinking interest in the German culture and language may be a further significant reason for the decrease in borrowing of German words into English in recent times.

The one sided influx of English and American vocabulary into German has been greeted outright disdain from linguistic purists. According to Salmons (2012: 337–338)

Anxieties about the future of German abound today, and we can note two varieties here, one about the displacement of German from international usage and even in certain domains within Germany and the other about the use of English loanwords in German.

Such concerns are fairly widespread among particular groups of German scholars. Meyer (2004), for instance, entitles an article Global English – a new lingua franca or a new imperial culture, and comes to the following conclusion:

It is not the bizarre mixture of German and English into so-called ‘Denglish’ which really threatens the future of German. It is the wide-spread contempt for our own mother tongue which makes us an object of scientific curiosity. […] Nobody can predict the future course of history and of course I do not want to accept that German is seriously endangered. But the rise of English to the position of the leading language in the emerging global society should seal the fate of German as the language of a living culture, this would not be the fault of the Americans or of the English-speaking world. It would be a self-inflicted tragedy (Meyer 2004: 82).

A question arising is whether the impressions and valuations with respect to the present status of German are correct. Busse and Görlach (2004: 32), for instance, reject the concern about German being an endangered language as a result of the enthusiastic use of English words. They draw attention to the fact that

[…] the number of Anglicisms in German is still comparatively small, if contrasted with words of native origin and with those of French and neo-Latin/Greek provenance. ← 310 | 311 → The close similarity between the linguistic structures of English and German makes many loanwords inconspicuous and easy to integrate, which explains the uncomplicated adoption of most words. The future development of the other type of fashionable borrowings which are used because they are notably English in form and content is more difficult to predict, but we do not see, in 2001, any drastic changes of attitude taking place in this area – however much public attention purist demands to avoid Anglicisms have received in the past few years. […]

The influx of Anglicisms into German has continued unabated up to the present day. At present, it seems very likely that speakers of German will remain receptive to the adoption of English and American words. Yet only the future will tell us whether these speculations prove true or whether there will be, at some point, a noticeable change in the status of German despite the dominance of English and its American variant all over the world.

96The numbers include German borrowings, borrowings with a mixed etymology, and borrowings from the varieties of German.