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Thank Gott for Deutsch

Regulars | By Mary Kenny | November issue

Mary Kenny suspects that Britons would be lost for words without wunderbar German imports into our language

While English is recognised as a global language (sometimes now called ‘Globish’) it’s remarkable how many German words and expressions we now understand, and use. Where would we be without the indispensible Schadenfreude? It’s brilliant because it puts a name to the ignoble thoughts most of us have entertained, ‘glee at the misfortune of others’: there’s no English equivalent. And we’d surely be lost without Zeitgeist, Kaput, Kitsch, Schmalz and Schlepp – the latter from the German via Yiddish. All Woody Allen fans grasp the good-egg meaning of Mensch! We don’t spring-clean our kitchens any more: we Blitz them. We don’t just prudently stay silent on certain occasions: we keep Stumm. ’Tis true that some of the German expressions we recognise come to us from movies, new and old, about Nazis. We know Schnell!, Achtung! and Verboten, not to mention Schweinhund!, Raus! and Herein! – what the swastika-adorned commander calls...

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