Does Americanization falsify the English language?

Where does the Germans' madness for English come from?


Attempt at a historical interpretation / by Udo Leuschner

(Presentation for a general meeting of the VDS regional group Rhine-Neckar in 2008)


It was a long, long time ago when the German first went to travel when he wanted to travel station went. There he went shopping Billet. With that he went to the platform. Then he got into the Coupewhere the Conductor expected.

That sounded old-fashioned to later ears. In the meantime you went to the railway station and bought one ticket. With that you went to the platform, got into compartment and let the conductor check.

Today - at least for the time being - you still go to the train station. But now you can find strange things like you there Service point (formerly information or information), one McClean (formerly lavatory, toilet), one Lounge (formerly waiting room) or one Ticket counter (It used to be a ticket counter). And when you stand on the platform and on the Intercity Express waiting, you see a freight train driving through with the word big on its locomotive Cargo stands.

Language change does not come of its own accord, but is imposed

This language change did not come by itself, due to a quasi-autonomous development of the German language. Rather, it was imposed on it by the mass media, institutions, large corporations and other powers of disposal over the names. A word like Service point is even an artifact that sounds English but is nowhere to be found in English or American train stations because the same thing is there information called.

The English mania is not limited to Deutsche Bahn, which thankfully has for the time being refrained from getting into German Railways rename. It is particularly symptomatic of another former state-owned company that is now Telecom calls and such strange names as that CityCall tariff invented. Presumably, however, the English mania is only so pronounced in these two former state-owned companies because they emulate the completely normal private economy, where the individual business departments as business units or divisions are designated.

A number of corporations based in Germany have even made English their corporate language. German is then only permitted for internal communication. As soon as someone sits at the table who does not speak German, everyone has to use English, even if ninety percent of those present have a very imperfect command of this language and therefore cannot communicate properly.

The normative force of the factual works in both directions

The flooding of the German language with Anglicisms takes place in a pinch from advertising, media and institutional constraints. The normative power of the factual forms and deforms the use of language: Who a hundred times the term computer hears, will hardly use the German equivalent "calculator". And if you don't want to risk astonished queries, you will immediately get by e-mail speak instead of "E-Post". So it goes with many other terms, like that jogging instead of the endurance run or the aerobicswhich used to be known as rhythmics or rhythmic gymnastics.

The normative force of the factual could just as well be effective in the opposite direction, if only enough pressure were made for it. A classic example of this is the Germanization of many foreign words, which was carried out by the railways and post offices at the end of the 19th century. That was a purely administrative act, behind which there was nothing but the linguistic power of disposal over a certain area, just as the mass media are churning into us today with some Denglish terms. A word like “platform” instead of platform must have seemed as alien to contemporaries at the time, as if the "Association of German Language" made the suggestion today to use the term "start clock" instead of countdown to use.

Technical jargon and the media are the most important gateways for anglicisms

The inundation with English has partly factual reasons. One only needs to think of the computer sector, where almost all terms are in English, because the worldwide spread of technology and software originated in the USA (the fact that the computer was actually invented in Germany does not help much). It would be a hopeless undertaking to try to Germanize all of these terms. However, you should at least look for German-language alternatives where the technical language merges into the general language (e.g. "Leitseite" instead of "Homepage"). And if there aren't any, you should definitely dare to create something new, as the French did with "logiciel" for "software".

The actual colonization, however, takes place where there is no need to replace German words with English ones because they somehow sound more fashionable, chic, imposing; when, for example, the bicycle becomes a "bike" and the cyclist becomes a "biker"; or when poorly translated English such as "it makes sense" or "in 2005" penetrates German in such a way that no one notices it. It is also considered normal when a birthday child is greeted with "Happy birthday to you" or "Halloween" is celebrated on October 31st. Such linguistic and thought patterns are conveyed through the media, above all through commercial television, which mostly uses products from the USA for its trash programs (in this case the Anglicism fits). It has happened that such inexperienced TV viewers, when they had to appear in court as a witness, stubbornly addressed the judge with "Your Honor" ...

Why do I get part of my newspaper in English?

Even at a higher level, we are constantly confronted with English and Denglish imposing behavior. For example, as a subscriber to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, I get annoyed every week about a supplement that contains a selection of articles from the “New York Times” - “selected for Süddeutsche Zeitung”, as the subtitle says. Actually, I have a subscription to a German newspaper and I assume that it will provide me with comprehensive information. Why do I suddenly get part of the newspaper in English?

This is really a matter of showing off, because the "New York Times" is being presented to us as a kind of holy grail of journalism, which it is not at all. This is just an old myth from the days of blind USA worship. First of all, in the USA in particular, journalism is at an extremely pathetic level. Compared to what Americans can normally find in their newspapers or other media, our local and regional newspapers are real world newspapers.

On the other hand, there are of course a few readable, quite informative newspapers in the USA. These include the "Washington Post", the "Los Angeles Times" or the "New York Times". But they are exceptions in a journalistic desert, and there is absolutely no reason to glorify them. For example, the “New York Times” has uncritically adopted and disseminated the easily transparent false information with which the Bush administration propagandistically justified its war against Iraq.

The Denglish mold even grows on the green wood of the FAZ

Another newspaper that I have subscribed to is the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" (FAZ). The feature editor of this paper surprised one day with the news that they had given a new Internet forum on literature that only communicates in German the name "Reading Room". One would have expected something like that from the "Frankfurter Allgemeine". With regard to the political direction of the newspaper, one could always disagree. But in terms of feeling for language, one would have expected her best to withstand the gibberish of Anglicisms. - Just as she still held up the flag of the old spelling after the "Süddeutsche" and the "Spiegel" had already surrendered. And now that: A particularly ugly Denglish mold called "Reading Room" was growing on the green wood of the FAZ.

What had gotten into the FAZ's feature pages? Was that just one of those show-offs with which feature section head Frank Schirrmacher intended to continue the list of his great deeds that he opened eight years ago with the endlessly boring print of the human DNA code on several newspaper pages? Or was it even a total surrender after the resistance to the spasm of the new spelling had fallen victim to the publisher's calculations?

Ignoramus et ignorabimus! - We only know that after a few weeks the FAZ suddenly began to think better of it. One can assume, however, that the editors could no longer ignore the readers' displeasure with the "Reading Room". In any case, a discussion was officially opened in the said "Reading Room" as to whether the name of the matter was appropriate. And lo and behold: The "Contra" column foamed over with reader protests, while the "Pro" column eke out an anorexic existence in every respect. At the head of the "Pro" camp was not Mr. Schirrmacher, but a relatively unknown FAZ columnist named Ebbinghaus, who could not think of anything better to defend the "Reading Room" than that "Feuilleton" was a foreign word after all. .

As a FAZ subscriber, I took part in the discussion as to whether this Internet forum could be called a "Reading Room" with the following contribution:

You are allowed to. Nobody should be forbidden to call their child "Kevin". But it is also allowed to draw conclusions about the spiritual habitus of the namesake. So far, the FAZ has not really been seen as a sheet of intellectual lower classes who like to cover their nakedness with Anglo-American boisterous talk. It seems like a bad joke that she of all people is calling a German-language forum, which is also mainly dedicated to the German language and literature, as the “Reading Room”. It fits like a fist on the eye. The objection with the "feuilleton" does not work. Apples are compared to pears. The skewed comparison also reveals ignorance of the historical press background, against which the French feuilleton was imitated in the German press and the term was adopted in the 19th century. At least one can hope that this unspeakable naming will finally be discussed.

A week later the FAZ surrendered to the protests of its readers and renamed the "Reading Room" to "Reading Room". The normative force of the factual had worked in this case in a gratifying way.

How the philosopher's stone was rediscovered in the USA and entered German specialist literature as "philosopher's stone"

We encounter the same impersonation in the scientific community, where a lot of hot air is traded anyway. For example, I got my hands on a psychotherapeutic journal with the title topic “Clinical Case Management”. I do not want to go into the benefits of this treatment method now, I just want to use this example to explain how the philosopher's stone was allegedly found again in the USA, in order to then go down in German specialist literature as “philosopher’s stone”. Because the two authors who presented this "case management" here were unable or did not dare to translate the key terms of this "case management" - it starts with the title - into German. The result was a primarily German-language article, the intellectual substance of which, however, was in English, if available. For example, the authors described various functions of this case management using English terms throughout, such as: Screening - Assessment - Planning - Linking / Plan Implementation - Monitoring - Reassessment / Evaluation - Advocacy. In the same way, the various models of this case management were subdivided into “advocacy model”, “broker model”, “service management model” or “managed care model”.

This English-Denglish word clatter can be found in almost all areas today. Let's just take business jargon, which constantly talks about implementation, allocation, monitoring, auditing or benchmarking. There is talk of best practice regulations, task forces, tools, key documents, investor relations, performance, charts - there is a single horror without end.

"Code-Switching" as the final stage of language decline

The German language suffers a creeping pidginization. It is very similar to dialects that lose contact with the standard language. You can study where that leads in Alsace, where part of the population is still rooted in the Alemannic dialect, but can only use it in rudimentary form because the "Alsacien" has lost its connection to the high-level language. The dialect speaker must therefore switch to French as soon as more complicated things and facts are involved. (Incidentally, our German scholars feel very similar, because they refer to the process described here as "code switching".)

The astonishingly vital counterpart to "Alsacien" is the Alemannic dialect of the German-speaking Swiss. It is by no means on the retreat within Switzerland, but on the advance. There it is not considered a characteristic of the lower classes, but rather as a sign of upscale bourgeoisie. In the joint program of German-language television on "3 Sat", contributions from Switzerland are therefore often provided with subtitles, because Schwyzerdütsch sounds almost like a foreign language to the ears of northern Germans. In written form, however, what was said - apart from minor peculiarities - would be identical to the high-level German language. The connection is definitely there, as everyone knows who opens the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" or reads a text by Max Frisch.

Baltic mini-nations asserted themselves thanks to their languages

Perhaps an even better example of the need for linguistic self-assertion are the Baltic states, which from a Western European perspective had long been written off as Russian provinces before they rose like a phoenix from the ashes to new statehood when the Soviet Union collapsed. The Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are just mini-nations that have fewer citizens than most of our federal states. That they were able to withstand the massive Russification, they owe above all to the preservation of their own languages.

German does not play the role it deserves in the EU

As the most important country in the EU, Germany would have a very good chance of resisting Americanization. So far, however, they have been wasted when German politicians, business people and scientists developed a particular ambition to speak English instead of German on all possible occasions. One only needs to look through the pronouncements of the EU Commission in Brussels to quickly find out that German is of secondary importance next to English and French. Why do I have to wait weeks before I find a German version of a Council, Commission or Parliament document on the Internet?

Something like that does not annoy me as a German "patriot", but simply as a member of the German language community (which also includes the Austrians, most of Switzerland and a number of other people outside the borders of Germany). You grew up in this language and, with the best will in the world, you will never be able to master other languages ​​in the same way. It is not patriotism, but a pure instinct for self-preservation, if I do not want to see the cultural-intellectual infrastructure that I am familiar with destroyed by ignoramuses, who may have reached influential positions in politics, economics, science, media and advertising, but are otherwise quite dumb to know as much about the meaning of language as a cow does about playing the piano.

One cannot hope for anything from the official institutions of language maintenance

Unfortunately, this also and especially applies to institutions that are allegedly dedicated to maintaining the German language, such as the "Institute for German Language" in Mannheim or the "Society for German Language" in Wiesbaden. They are as blind as the Germanists, who get their conceptual instruments from the Anglo-American region without reflecting on the fact that they are already affected by "code switching" themselves. You see the language from the perspective of accountants and bean counters, so to speak. This includes counting the popularity of first names or creating a "word of the year" quite arbitrarily. The inundation of the German language with Anglicisms is only noticed by observing and registering or is even played down.

The downside of this supposedly scientifically neutral stance is then the bureaucratic rampage, as revealed in the so-called spelling reform: It had downright comic features, as here bureaucratic bodies and linguists who are blind to the business - from the Conference of Ministers of Education to the "Institute for German Language" - started something, the consequences of which they did not understand at all. In the end, the "reform" had to be withdrawn in stages. What has remained, however, is an unprecedented confusion with regard to German spelling.

It doesn’t matter to petty people whether they break German or English

It belongs to the Understatement the English madness widespread in Germany of ignoring the simple fact that hardly anyone grows up really bilingual, that is, masters one language as well as the other. However, business people as well as scientists and politicians pretend that they can express themselves easily in English. The Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Günther Oettinger even went so far as to say that English must become the "working language" in Germany. From the point of view of a cultural buff, it really doesn't matter whether he radebrecht in German or in English. For what he has to say, BSE (Bad Simple English) is definitely enough.

We speak railways was once an advertising slogan that was emblazoned in large letters on the gable end of the Frankfurt station concourse. The German railway technology company Adtranz probably thought this was a very successful slogan to underline its cosmopolitanism. In reality, he was glossing over his own constitution, which roughly corresponded to that on the construction site of the Tower of Babel after the confusion of languages ​​began there. Adtranz became the epitome of technical breakdowns and mismanagement. And it will probably end up in the same way for a number of other German companies that have devoted themselves to the English madness.

Much more than a concession to the new "lingua franca"

Of course, there are plausible reasons why the English language is on the advance not only in Germany, but also in other countries. The most common is the world domination of the English-speaking US politically, economically, culturally, and technically. No country can escape this all-encompassing pincer grasp. There are also some arguments in favor of elevating the already widespread and relatively simple English to the new "lingua franca", just as Latin used to be the international language of science or French was also spoken by the educated circles outside of France.

The German craze for English goes far beyond the concessions that are owed to international interdependence and the world’s becoming smaller. Linguistic inventions like that Service point or that mobile testify to an almost voluptuous use of the English language, which does not shrink from any perversion. The sex offenders often do not even notice the violence they are doing to the English language, for example when they use a backpack as a body bag denote, though backpack would be the appropriate English name and the pseudo-English substitute word is at best used in the sense of "body bag".

Only in Germany is it possible that a large part of the advertising is in English, although the advertising slogans are not or not correctly understood by the majority of the population. Obviously it doesn't matter. The English sayings are ends in themselves. It is sufficient if they are recognized as English and perhaps understood in parts. First and foremost, it's about boisterous flair, about the promise of participation in another, glamorous world that has nothing to do with banal everyday life.

"Bike" only has a special gloss effect in German

Involuntarily one wonders which foreign language the English or US-Americans might use to produce the same psychological effect on themselves. One will quickly find out, however, that they are unwilling or unable to produce such linguistic gloss effects. For members of the Anglo-Saxon language community, there is no parallel world in which everything is much more glamorous and impressive because its content is covered with expressions from another language. A bike remains for him a bicycle, whether it is the latest production or a hundred years old. Only the German is able to Bike to gain a different psychological content than the familiar bicycle: One vehicle comes from the latest glossy brochure of the bicycle industry, the other is in the junk room.

It will also be found that this impressive effect of English is only so pronounced among Germans. Because of the already mentioned hegemony of the USA, English words penetrate the language of other nations as well. But nowhere near as strong. In any case, the same companies that rely on English imposing drama in Germany advertise in the local language in other countries.

The German national character has always been a rather crooked growth

So it seems to be due to the national character that English words and scraps of sentences are so eagerly received and even invented in Germany, as if they were the promise of a better world. It seems as if the Germans suffered from a specific defect that made them despise their own language and perceive it as antiquated.

It may seem a little bold to speak of such a national character at all. After all, what is now known as Germany was only brought together into a political unit in 1990. If you look back further, the political-cultural unity of today's structure only existed from 1871 to 1945.

Perhaps, however, it is precisely this short, belated history of the German nation-state, which is already beginning to dissolve again within the larger framework of the European Union, that offers an explanation for the disturbed relationship between Germans and their own language. It begins with the fact that the promise of a national unity that largely coincides with the language community - "from the Meuse to the Memel, from the Adige to the Belt" - was never kept.

The Germany of the national anthem was not a political but a linguistic unit

When Hoffmann von Fallersleben composed this text, which was later chosen as the national anthem, it was a declaration of war on small states and princely rule on the basis of the growing national feeling, the most important element of which was again the common language. The four rivers mentioned roughly described the extent of the German-speaking area at that time in all four directions. One cannot assume that in the west by the Meuse he also meant the Dutch, who had left the Holy Roman Empire in the late Middle Ages and developed their German dialect into their own standard language. Neither did he mean the German-speaking Swiss in the south by the Adige, who also left the Reich very early, but remained connected to the standard German language.

In contrast, Hoffmann von Fallersleben's vision of a unified Germany still included Austria and Luxembourg, because the historical entanglements that led to the exclusion of these two countries during national unification could not yet be foreseen at the time. Austria was then at least allowed to contribute the melody to the German national anthem, which Joseph Haydn had originally composed as a hymn to the Austrian ruling house ("Gott preserve Franz, the Kaiser ...")

The Little German Empire became the center of the German language

The large majority of German speakers lived in the small German nation-state, which came into being under Prussian tutelage in 1871. It was therefore also the center of the German language community, although it was not identical with it and included considerably more people, especially in the south. This nation-state initially had a very favorable effect on the German language and its acceptance at home and abroad. On the one hand, his rise to the economically strongest and also culturally influential power on the continent resulted in a corresponding spread and appreciation of the German language. On the other hand, state authorities took care of the maintenance and standardization of the German language. The "Orthographic Dictionary of the German Language", which was developed by the grammar school director Konrad Duden at the time, was never legally binding, but unofficially achieved such a status for spelling. The state administrations of the post office and railroad erased a large number of foreign words in their areas and replaced them with German-language new formations, which, like the word "station", soon passed into the general consciousness.

Berlin French worked in a very similar way to Denglish today

At that time almost only French or French-sounding words were replaced and successfully superseded. It is very helpful to bear in mind the former overload of the German language with buzzwords imported from France, since, like today's copywriting English, it had a lot to do with showing off. The use of French words was just as much a part of the identification of upper class citizenship as that Chaise longue in the salon. Those who wanted to demonstrate their affiliation or at least familiarity with the higher classes asked for pardon instead of forgiveness, as the urbane German today deals with a flippant one sorry sorry.

The German-French of the 19th century also contained peculiar constructions in the style of today's Denglisch, which a French would not have understood or at least would not have used. For example, had and has platform not the meaning of platform in French. It rather stands for an outside staircase or a similar porch, with a slight aftertaste of a stage. As an aid to boarding the train, the platform was only available in German-occupied Alsace-Lorraine. The French used the for this purpose Quai. Then they didn't get into either Coupe, but into Compartment.

And so there were a number of other words that a French could only wonder about, even though they were derived from his language. For example Basement for basement, ground floor for ground floor and Beletage for the first floor. Such expressions were familiar to everyone in Berlin, but would be used in Paris sous-sol, rez-de-chaussée and premier étage has been translated. The same applies to words such as, then and still widely used today hair stylist (hairdresser), envelope (enveloppe) or to puff (faire la cour).

Good reasons, then, to do away with this Berlin French and other Frenchisms, especially since they were mostly pronounced in a horrific way that deeply hurts any friend of French (Sutterrang, Sallong, Schässlong etc.).

Language purists always remained outsiders

Certainly there were overzealous language cleaners like Eduard Engel who saw the German language desecrated by any "Welsche" sprinkles and wanted to help it to achieve a purity that tended towards sterility. Their rage against "foreign wording" and "Welscherei" had to do with an exaggerated national feeling. At the same time, however, its purism was so idealistic and exaggerated that it was unable to provide practical support for the prevailing chauvinism, but rather was perceived as a hindrance. Die-hard purists later had the same experience with the National Socialist rulers, who demonstratively replaced a word such as "editor" with "editor", but otherwise maintained a purely instrumental relationship to the German language and were averse to any language correction that did not meet their immediate propagandistic needs . The language purists therefore always remained outsiders, their response limited to small groups.

The trauma of the two world wars also left deep wounds in the self-esteem of Germans

The unfortunate amalgamation of the new German nation-state with chauvinism, militarism and imperial striving for power was fatal for the German language in another way, namely through the associated course of history which plunged this nation-state into two world wars. It is true that the Germans had finally managed to constitute themselves as a nation like the English or French. In contrast to the two other great European nations, however, the emancipation of the bourgeoisie against the old feudal powers stopped halfway. In comparison with the democratic-republican Greater Germany, as Hoffmann von Fallersleben and other forty-eighters had envisaged, the small German Bismarck Empire was a bitter disappointment. It was shaped by militarism, a sense of authority, junker class arrogance and possessive bourgeois egoism.

The rapid victory over France, which was at the cradle of the new empire and had also forced the southern German states with their more liberal climate under Prussian rule, favored an aggressive claim to dominance in Europe in the following decades, which was mainly directed against the " Hereditary enemy "France and the" perfidious Albion "judged. For their part, these two powers saw their traditional supremacy threatened by the German upstart. "Imperialism" was not a discredited word at that time, but the generally recognized maxim of foreign policy. So then came the catastrophe of the First World War, for which Germany was certainly not solely to blame, but to which it had made a decisive contribution through the politically antiquated nature of its kind of national statehood.

"We are not cannibals"

The defeat and hardship in the wake of the First World War were only the first shock that the newly won national identity suffered. A few years later emerged from the trauma of the "Shame of Versailles" the hubris of the Nazi ideology, which promised to lead Germany and everything German to world domination. In 1945 everything that had made up individual and national self-esteem was all the more in ruins.

The expression of this profound disturbance was precisely the emphasis with which everything was invoked that did not seem politically discredited. "We are not cannibals", it was said, for example, in the hit song "We are the natives of Trizonesia" at the end of the forties. The three western occupiers were asked to see not only the crimes of the Nazi regime, but also the immortal highlights of German culture:

But strange man, so that you know
a Trizonese has a sense of humor
he has culture, he also has spirit,
nobody is fooling him.
Even Goethe comes from Trizonesia,
Beethoven's cradle is well known.
No, there is no such thing in China,
that is why we are proud of our country.
We are the natives of Trizonesia,
Heidi, chivwla, chivwla, chivwla, chivwla, bum ....

The convulsive evocation of Goethe, Beethoven and other illustrious spirits did nothing to change the fact that the Germans' national self-esteem was hit to the core. That differentiated them from other nations - incidentally also from the German-speaking population of Switzerland - and made them particularly susceptible to the Americanization that was now beginning to affect more or less all European countries.

The dominance of English today has little to do with England and the English spoken there. In contrast to the 19th and early 20th centuries, when England was a much admired great power with a specific social character and strong cultural charisma, the British Isles have long since ceased to provide any major impetus. In any case, the number of people with German as their mother tongue outweighs the European context.

Berlin was already more "American" than London in the 1920s

Rather, the dominance of English is a dominance of American. It is a side effect of the "Americanization" of all areas of life, which began to determine the penetration of English words into the German language at the beginning of the 20th century. Until then, French admixtures had dominated German. They belonged to the language of the wealthy and educated bourgeoisie, especially that of the semi-educated parvenu. Only in second place were English expressions such as, some of which were soon to be Germanized, such as reporter, interview, Trainer, record, favourite or handicapwhich originated mainly from the field of sport. However, after the First World War - and with a causal connection with it - English caught up a lot. As early as the 1920s, Berlin was not considered to be the "most American" of all European capitals, not London. Above all, the language of technical and economic progress was peppered with English expressions, while French was able to assert itself in reservations such as fashion, gallantry or gourmet food.

This "Americanization", which was already noted at that time and which has often been lamented, was not primarily perceived as a threat to the German language, but rather as a threat to German culture in general. In the political field it corresponded with the conflict between more liberal, democratic currents on the one hand and German national-ethnic tendencies on the other. Unfortunately, this temporary connection with a backward-looking, dumb German foolishness still weighs on the struggle to preserve the German language.

Spiritual and spiritual homelessness was initially glued up with clericalism

Nevertheless, the Americanization of all areas of life, including the language, would hardly have been any different in Germany than in neighboring countries - that is, in a more moderate form - had it not been for the twelve-year rule of National Socialism and the Second World War that it unleashed. After 1945 only a heap of rubble remained of the national self-confidence of the Germans. In 1961, the liberal journalist Paul Sethe noted a peculiar "soullessness" in the new Federal Republic:

"No propaganda, no awakening of old resentments, no reference to the landscape can hide the fact that this temporary arrangement in which we live has and cannot have a soul. All attempts to convince us of the national reality of the Federal Republic are self-deception . "

The older generation, which consisted mainly of former members and fellow travelers of the Nazi party, gelatinized their intellectual homelessness for the time being with "Christian-Occidental" ideology, which reminded of non-alcoholic beer inasmuch as the intoxicating brown drink had been replaced by a bland surrogate . But even the next generation could not do anything with the conservative-clerical substitute drug. The sons and daughters even reacted extremely allergic to the bourgeois parents, who still rejected jazz as "Negro music", considered rock and roll to be moral savagery, frowned upon Mickey Mouse books and knew the USA mainly from Karl May's Wild West novels. And so a new wave of Americanization could be observed soon after 1945, which even influenced the German vocabulary to a greater extent than was previously possible for French.

"...and infant is German called the Malheur "

Certainly the American and British occupation of the western zones also played a role. Whoever spoke the language of the occupiers had an advantage. However, it would be premature to derive a penetration of the German language from this. At first it was nothing more than learning a foreign language when the Germans learned a few bits of English in large numbers. The hit "English is not so difficult" by Fred Rauch from 1949 gave the appropriate instructions:

Weekend means Saturday
and yes means yes,
Party means company with a lot of alcohol,
Boy friend is he, well, you already know that!
and girl friend, that's the miss of it
and baby is called the mishap in German,
See, English isn't that difficult at all.

More important than the forced adaptation to the idiom of the occupiers was the "voluntary" adoption of cultural elements and thus also words of American origin. The American occupation made its most effective contribution here via the soldiers' channel AFN, which with its music appealed to young people far more than the conventional music program of the German broadcasters.

Haughty look at the primitiveness of US culture - but from a losing streak

As in the twenties, the general Americanization of business life, including the mass media, became even more effective. While the educated bourgeoisie is still quite haughty and at best worried from the Beletage European high culture looked down on the primitiveness of US culture, it was already ins Basement of the cultural scene and fought their way up level by level.

The apparent intactness of the established culture also explains why Theodor W. Adorno, after returning to Germany from the USA in 1950, was "surprised" by the intellectual climate that he found in this country. "The relationship to spiritual things, understood in the broadest sense" seemed to him even more pronounced than before the National Socialist seizure of power.

Adorno thus succumbed to an illusion that was understandable against the background of his traumatic experiences with US culture. But he ignored the fact that the "reified consciousness", as he had branded it together with Horkheimer in the "Dialectic of Enlightenment", was based on generally valid laws of capitalist development. It could only be a matter of time before this economic law would break the traditional cultural structures in Europe as well.

The hit "Sugar Baby", with which Peter Kraus - the German copy of Elvis Presley - imitated his US role model in 1958 and was extremely successful, can serve as an example of the Americanization of the German language at the lowest level:

A one, a two, a three, a four!
Sugar-sugar-baby, oh-oh, sugar-sugar-baby
mmmhhh, be nice to me
Sugar-sugar-baby, oh-oh, sugar-sugar-baby
mmmhhh, then I'll stay with you.
I know Susi and Marleen
know Mary and Jane
Diana is also adorable and nice,
and one thing is clear to me
I would be in constant danger
if I didn't have you, sugar baby!
Hey, sugar-sugar-baby ...

Susi might still pass as a German maiden name. Marleen, Mary, Jane and Diana were clearly English or American names, which is a bit surprising when you consider that the girlfriends of a German teenager were still called Helga, Monika, Marliese or Renate. Not to mention the nickname "Sugar Baby", which only became known through this hit. Due to a lack of English language skills, a large part of the audience may not have understood him correctly even then. But that didn't matter. It was about something else: the demonstration of an attitude to life that the american way of life felt as a desirable, even higher form of existence.

The promise of a new informality and cosmopolitanism came across as American

I remember how we enthusiastically sang this hit on school trips back then as pupils - and the reddened face of the headmaster who demanded that we stop with this junk and instead sing decent German folk songs like "Hoch auf dem yellow Wagen".

It was the same headmaster who slapped me when I dared to withdraw from religious education. "What is sacred to me and others, I will not let you drag me into the mud," he shouted.

So it was, the Adenauer era, with its clerical smugness, its narrow-mindedness and all the brown dirt that had only been swept under the carpet in a makeshift fashion. Cheap pop songs like Sugar baby sounded like the promise of a new ease and cosmopolitanism.

The "extra-parliamentary opposition" also liked to speak English

A few years later we stopped being slapped. Rather, it was now that Establishmentwho had to fear assault. For example, the storming of the Springer Group's skyscraper in Berlin, whose "Bild-Zeitung" had provoked the assassination attempt on Rudi Dutschke with its agitation. I attended that night without participating in the assault. In the meantime I watched with more than secret sympathy as the newspaper trucks of "Bild", "BZ" and "Morgenpost" went up in flames ...

Like the word that was used a lot at the time Establishment already indicates, the "extra-parliamentary opposition" (APO) was far from developing allergies to Anglicisms. Rather, one practiced Teach-ins and Go-ins. Incidentally, it now also became customary to use the university campus as a campus to speak. The endless theoretical debates were peppered with sociology and political science vocabulary that rebellious students and their academic teachers had taken from US literature. There was a lot of in the disintegration phase of the APO Flower power the speech.

The terms, of all things, seemed a bit disreputable to us freedom and democracy, as they were used by US propaganda to justify the poisoning and destruction of Vietnam. They were actually only used to parody the phraseology of the "mass murderers" Nixon and Johnson. Anyone who did not mean the falsification, but the real thing, spoke in good German of "freedom" and "democracy".

Dahrendorf saw the USA as a refuge for "applied enlightenment"

Typical of the generally positive attitude towards everything that came from the USA was the book "The Applied Enlightenment", published in 1963, in which the sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf saw the USA as a real treasure trove of enlightenment and welcomed the fact that American influence was well received now also penetrated all areas of life in Europe: "Since the end of the First World War America has not only become increasingly more attractive or efficient than Europe, but it has also made us feel this preponderance. We can no longer escape American influence, either in strategy or in strategy in sociology, neither in economic policy nor in the design of cars ".

Dahrendorf lamented the "still frequent denunciations of 'Americanized' European sociology or psychology" and welcomed the orientation of the sciences on American models: "Fifty years ago, the training of American scholars included the trip to Europe; today, the training of European scholars includes the America trip. "

He also found nothing wrong with the increasingly US-American format of the mass media: "The content of European mass culture today is largely American; yes, it seems that, with a few exceptions, film and television, press and hit music are succeeding to the same extent which they are of American origin or use American techniques. "

This development, however, comes up against the resistance of "anti-Americanism", which Dahrendorf characterized as dull resentment of philistines:

"Young people who walk in the forest with portable radios or go to the cinema five times a week, the increase in juvenile delinquency, the relaxation of sexual morality, and generally the casual, disrespectful behavior towards the elderly and superiors, the high-rise buildings made of concrete and glass and steel, self-service restaurants and supermarkets, canned food and the gleaming chrome cars, comic strips in the newspapers, time studies in factories, the faster pace of life, etc. etc. "

Dahrendorf never mentioned fears that the German language could also be threatened by Americanization. Obviously, such fears were not yet an issue for him at the time. Or they were of so little importance that they could safely be ignored when listing the anti-American reservations. But he would probably have put it in the box of philistine resentments ...

It is fair to add that Dahrendorf was already more critical of the USA in a new edition of his book published in 1967. In the meantime, the Vietnam War and political figures like Goldwater and Reagan had tarnished the beautiful image of the pioneer of "applied enlightenment". One would "probably not go wrong if one observes an increasing antagonism in the United States between fascist political tendencies on the one hand and a radical, almost anarchist drive for independence on the other." Apparently American society has not solved the problems of "applied intelligence" any more than any other.