German Professors Declare War on English Terms

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Apr 11 12:50:14 UTC 2003

Forwarded from Reuters: Wed Apr 9, 8:55 AM ET

		 German Professors Declare War on English Terms

By Erik Kirschbaum and Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters) - A group of German university professors, angered by the
U.S.-British war against Iraq (news - web sites), have launched a campaign
to replace many popular English-language words used in Germany with French
terms. Saying they are appalled by the way the United States and Britain
defied the will of the United Nations (news - web sites) and attacked
Iraq, the four professors declared war on borrowed English terms in German
such as "okay," "T-shirt" and "party." They have devised French-language
alternatives: "d'accord," "tricot" and "fete."

"We won't accept the United States as a role model as long as it is
violating international law so this seemed to be an appropriate way to
protest peacefully," Armin Burkhardt, a professor of German at Magdeburg
University, told Reuters. "We aren't trying to purify the language, we're
trying send a political signal to show we're against this war which has no
legal foundation," said Burkhardt, who is chairman of the group "Language
in Politics"  ( Burkhardt rejected the
notion the German professors have resorted to the same tactics as
super-patriots in the United States who renamed "French Fries" as "Freedom
Fries" to protest France's resistance to war in the U.N. Security Council.

He said there could also be no talk of a "language war" drawn up along the
lines of patriotic Americans in World War One who rechristened
"sauerkraut" as "liberty cabbage," "dachshund" as "liberty pups" and
"hamburger" as "liberty steak." "That's not our aim," Burkhardt said. "We
are not trying to permanently ban English terms...We are urging French
alternatives because of our solidarity with France."

English as well as French terms have long been part of the German
language, but the infiltration of English has risen steadily in the
decades since World War II, with the dominant influence of the United
States in German business and culture. German language purists have long
fought a losing battle to keep the English words out and saw their efforts
overwhelmed in recent years with the surge of the English-dominated
Internet and pop culture. Even most German pop groups sing in English.

Germans go "joggen" in the morning and use "Shampoo," "Bodylotion" or
"Aftershave" before going to their "Job." Before "Lunch" they send "Faxes"
or "Mails" to each other. They go to "Afterworkpartys" in "Clubs" and
"Bars," drink "Cocktails" or "Milkshakes" before watching "Gameshows" and
"Talkshows." The German linguists have so far come up with 33 French
substitutes for the thousands of English terms used by Germans and have
called for further French replacements.

They want to replace English terms in use with the French words
"mannequin" (Model), "ordinateur" (Computer), "Equipe" (Team) and "Adieu"
(Byebye). Norbert Dittmar, a German language professor at Berlin's Free
University who is not part of the protest, said the drive to oust English
words was a noble idea and worthy of support. "The idea of provoking an
ideological debate on what language is used for by suggesting these
changes is good given there is no doubt language is exploited for
political ends, as we saw with the 'freedom fries' affair,"  he said.

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