This video, an ad for a German supermarket chain, has ‘gone viral’ with over 11 million views and counting.
As I watched it, I was struck by the very high frequency of English words that were used. Before I was even half way through it, I counted something like fourteen English words and I may well have missed some: sexy, easy, fresh, cookies, crunchy, snack, smooth, tasty, . . .
Now, perhaps it’s because I’ve become used to Quebec’s overly zealous and obsessively protective monitoring of the French language (where the borrowing of English words is verboten and legally enforced), but such liberal use of English words in a German advertisement seems astonishing to me. In fact, I’d say the appearance of an ad like that on Quebec TV would lead to it being taken off the air immediately and kept from viewers until the English words had been expunged and their French ‘equivalents’ inserted in their place (and its producers charged with crimes against la chère langue Française or whatever such alleged crimes are called).
So, my question(s):
Is the use of so many English words in the commercial due to the fact that it’s ‘just an ad’ (and ads try to be different and memorable)? Or is it actually the case that German people talk like that nowadays; that they freely borrow and use English (and perhaps other languages’) words?
I think that this protectiveness is something peculiar to French (both in France and Quebec), rather than that the use of English words is particularly common in German (although it may be). Certainly here in Panama one sees the free use of English words in almost any context, including billboards and other ads entirely in English. (I don’t know about TV commercials.) This is in part due to Panama’s long history of US influence, but I don’t think most Spanish-speaking countries show much aversion to using English words.
One crazy example of the German love for English loanwords is “handy,” which they turned into a noun - “das Handy” - meaning… A cellphone. Nowhere in the English-speaking world would a dude be like “yeah I’ll be on the beach, call me on my handy and we can hook up later.” But the Germans don’t care - you just gotta have a cool-sounding English word for a cool new gadget, see?
It’ the sign of a nationality at ease and confident of its language. English steals words from every language its been in contact with. The French however are particularly touchy about their languages dilution.
The English words don’t stick out to a German listener. The main language-related thing that catches the listener’s attenton is the incongruity of the middle-aged performer and the youth-speech term supergeil - geil used to mean ‘horny’ but has been repurposed by youth speech in the last four decades or so as a generic term of approval.
Of the English words, some are those that would always be used in that meaning (e.g. snack and sexy). I’d be hard put to find a German word to convey the connotations of sexy. These words have been fully integrated as loanwords into the German language.
Some would be out of place outside ad speech (tasty, crunchy, fresh would be lecker, knusprig, frisch in normal, even casual German speech)
‘cookie’ is a special case - a Cookie is a specific sort of Keks in German.
There are many examples for that, e. g. “Public Viewing” meaning the public gatherings we did for viewing World Cup games. I read somewhere that it means “wake” (please correct me if I’m wrong), at least it hasn’t that meaning in English. And there are often Denglish slogans in commercials that just don’t make sense. There are three factions here: the vast majority who don’t give a shit, the nitpickers like me who don’t mind using English loan words, but want them to be used consistently, and some old folks who are concerned about the purity of the German language (which is a myth anyway, there are countless Latin and Greek loan words, and in the 17th and 18th century, French was just as hip as English is today which led to numerous French loan words in German still used today. Same old, same old).
The French have a special committee that meets to create new words that are suitably French to replace those borrowed from English that had snuck into the language.
A French guy asked what I did for living and I replied ‘Logician’, the correct French term. He looked puzzled and I when he finally understood. He said that word was not well known, ‘Programmer’ was the usual word.
It is rather vain for governments to try to change the way people speak for nationalistic political purposes. A bit like Orwellian Newspeak.
Nonetheless, language, as a component of national identity, often has political overtones.
The French are afraid of the cultural imperialism of Big Media and Hollywood. The Quebecois, have an axe to grind about whether they should an independent state seperate from Anglephone Canada.
I guess there are other examples, but most countries seem to think it is not really any business of the government and let the language evolve naturally.
English is a remarkably acquisitive language, it borrows words from just about every other language. A fair percentage of root words are Germanic in origin. So borrowing from something that has been previously borrowed?