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What the Walnut?

Sneaky Germans conquer English by the back door

March, 2005

"... so, we went there, yes, and we stayed at a wallnis hotel, it was beautiful..."
"Umm, sorry, a what?"
"A wullnis hotel. So, anyway..."

Um. I'm trying to figure it out. A Wahl...? No, that means choice, vote. Or maybe... self service? A wuhlnis...? No. wohl nass...? Fully wet? Another type of sauna. I mean, another goddam sort of sauna, there's five thousand already. Ah... got it. Walnuß Hotel... That must be it! Must be the name of the place.

"Sorry, I see. You stayed at the Walnut Hotel."
"No! here, I shall write it down for you!"

I looked at the words. Wellness hotel.
"Great." I said. "What on earth is that?"

She looked confused.
"Well, OK, it's an English word, so you know."
"No. No, I don't. I've spoken English all my life and I've never encountered 'wellness hotel' before."
"You know, people go there for their health, for saunas, good food, massage."

Light dawned.

"Oh! You mean, it's a health spa."
"What's that?"

"A wellness hotel! And look - you can't just invent English words! You've got your own language! Why not call it a Gesundheit Gasthaus?"

"That would just sound stupid."

The Defence

I had to look up 'wellness'. It is, as you'd expect, an American word. Trust them to invent some dumb new word rather than consider for a few seconds whether an existing word might do.

Oh, the tyranny of world English! How often are we told that anglo-american culture is taking over the world! Oh, fatal footsteps of MacDonalds and Coca-Cola padding just outside the door! But they haven't won yet. The Germans have developed a counter-attack... If they can't stop the english invasion, why not change it so much that noone can understand it...

The French trust to La Academie Francaise to erect legal barriers against words like le hairdressing. Pathetic. Destined to fail.

Well, the Germans are way ahead. Not only do they borrow English words for new concepts like computer, not only do the hip hop trendies in the streets use an English word for an everyday item when a perfectly good German word alread exists, now they are making up English words of their very own!

Wellness wasn't enough. Now the more advanced health spas offer courses in mindness and soulness. For the perfect spiritual colostomy.

The genius of it. After a few years of this, I predict an English speaker will be able to come to Germany, recognise half the words in use, and yet not be able to make sense out of any of them.

Ein Best-Of

Well, hurrah, we say, how much easier to learn German it would bebe if it's all English now, how must closer to world integration and happy understanding? Oh yeah? So try this: Was für ein schönes old-timer!

Super, you think, I know what they mean, an old timer is an old man, at least in yankee English. They're saying
What a, um, beautiful old man? Uhhh...

No. What they said was, What a neat vintage car.

And in those rare moments when they use the English phrase in its original sense, they apply German grammar to it. So, tonight Harald Schmidt will host ein Best-of. What? Oh, you groan, they mean a compilation, "The best of Harald Schmidt". But now ein Best-of has become a noun in its own right and so he keeps a Best-Of, have you any good Best-ofs, that's a lovely small green Best-of... stop stop it hurts when I hear it...

What a Refreshing Show!

If you're going to speak German, then speak German! Every time I hear one of these poxed English! It grates... it's a head drill! Every time I hear an English word taken and shoved back arse forwards into a German sentence, it's teeth scraping down a window pane!

English is always more sexy than German in Germany. Why? Everybody despises the Americans for their world domination, everybody thinks the British are just drunken louts, but even so, anything, anything seems to be cooler in Germany if expressed in English. There's a hair removal, a Haar Entfernung clinic nearby, and what do they call it. Wahr die Haare? No!

Hair Free in Bergedorf

Soon to appear on Broadway and the West End.

It's not our Language Any More

Why wellness? Why not Gesundheit? I ask. Ah, sorrowful head shake, downcast eyes, poor little foreign boy doesn't understand. Gesundheit is something different.

Ich bin in der Stadt fürs Shopping, she says.

Why? I feel weak now, can't keep fighting the anglo-babble welling around me. Why Shopping...? Why not Einkaufen...?

Shake the head. Poor little foreign boy. That's not einkaufen... she says. einkaufen is different... einkaufen is when you go to the supermarket, what do you call that? she says.

"Shopping", I say. And slowly, slowly fall over.







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