Another Free Service from German Joys

If you’re a small business owner in Germany, you may be thinking of spending hundreds of Euros on a sign or brochure to advertise your business. You probably want to give your establishment an English name, since English says "sophisticated" to Germans; just as French says "distingué" to Americans.  Now, if you ask me, I would say give your establishment a German name. It’s a nice language you have here, why not use it? Plus, it’s just more völkisch that way, if you know what I mean.

But if you do insist on English, why not have your idea checked by a native speaker? After all, your last formal English lesson might have been two decades ago, when you were 17. And once you hire that sign-painter or print a thousands brochures, there’s no going back. You’ll be stuck with "Schmidt Logistic Services – the Partner of your Trust!" or "Hahn Maintenance of Buildings" forever.

Therefore, I offer my services, as a certified native English speaker. I will review your suggested business name or advertising slogan and, using my native-speaker magic, give it that touch of class. That certain little je ne sais quoi, if you will. I’m happy to report that I’ve already had one customer — a bar in the University area of Cologne. I think you’ll agree that together, we were able to create something very special. Jump to see the result!

Cockscrew

44 thoughts on “Another Free Service from German Joys

  1. LOL!
    “Cockscrew” is already veeeeery nice, but what really kills me is that they have managed to put a “Deppenapostroph” into a (half) English name …

  2. The apostrophe is really the icing on the cake, isn’t it?

    No wait — even better than the apostrophe is the fact that it’s a “Sport’s und Musicbar”! Jawohl, homeslice!

    I saw this about 4 years ago while walking around Cologne (the bar’s probably long out of business). I didn’t have my camera with me. So I forced my friend, who had a non-digital camera, to take a picture for me. Not being a native speaker, he could barely fathom why I wanted a picture of some nondescript bar. I made him send me a print, and scanned it in.

    That’s how committed I am to bringing you the world’s finest Denglish!

  3. That was an inspired name, Andrew (notice all the patrons). But I think I have a better one. Try “Cluster**ck’ (a military term I believe). But not too close to any US military base – we don’t want good soldiers to die laughing…

  4. To top it off, the “Deppenapostroph” is actually an acute accent, leaving a nice wide gap for the (missing) character it is supposed to modify.

  5. Sometimes, I’m just not sure whether it’s tongue-in-cheek or accidental. I once saw a translated brochure from Hell (hell.de) suggesting to “Get spare parts directly from Hell!”

    As for that other thing, the fact that you can successfully google for a “cluster FAQ” always makes me smile (I know, I know), a FAQ being a list of Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers).

  6. Ah, forget my last comment, just realized the “**” stand for “fu” …
    Had not enough coffee this morning, obviously …

  7. “Therefore, I offer my services, as a certified native English speaker. I will review your suggested business name or advertising slogan and, using my native-speaker magic, give it that touch of class.”

    That’s a wonderful idea which is absolutely welcome. You might as well go big and start with the likes of Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom whose English websites are a real disgrace (e.g. DB: “On many trains, the staff also serves passengers at their seat with light snacks and drinks.” “…there are different offers provided for you. Choose the one, which offers you best value for your trip!”). If you’re interviewing with DB, please don’t forget to suggest that they hire a native speaker for their English on-train announcements.

  8. @norbert (citing DB literature)

    Choose the one, which offers you best value for your trip!

    Oh man. Why do so many German speakers insist, to use German comma rules in English sentences? It is one of those things, that annoy me greatly.

  9. Sebastian: amen, my brother. I understand that writing in a foreign language is tough, so I never criticize someone’s English for picayune faults, as long as the meaning is clear. But I once published an academic article, in English, in a journal that had some German-speakers on its editorial staff. My draft came back, with plenty of extraneous commas, in just the places, where Germans would put them. I found it more than a tad cheeky that a German native speaker had presumed to “correct” my English, but didn’t get my knickers in a twist about it. I removed all the commas, and sent it back.

    When I got the final pre-publication proofs, all the commas had been put back in. This time, I accompanied my big, juicy edits with a little note to the effect that: “I’ve been speaking this language for 34 years, have edited about 10,000 pages in it, and written about 500. Trust me, I know where commas go in English sentences. No matter how good your English is, and I’m sure it’s pretty good, I’d appreciate it if you’d put your vanity aside and take,the,goddamn,commas,out.” (note: actual language used may have been more diplomatic). A few of them still made it in, but I invoked the lessons of Zen Buddhism and let it pass.

    Norbert: It never fails to amaze me how many big, important, extremely rich German companies do not hire a native speaker to proof their copy. My theory is that basically there’s somebody high up in the marketing chain who fancies himself an utterly fluent speaker, and takes it upon himself to write the copy personally. Because he’s so high-up, nobody has the courage to suggest that his English may, er, not be exactly 100% perfect. And thus is stilted English waved into print!

  10. Andrew, you’re absolutely right but you’re fighting against windmills. Maybe this is too trivial, but German companies, andvertisers and journalists don’t use English phrases or words to attract English-speaking people, they use them for German consumers. “American” or “English” – better: what looks like it – was always a sign of modernity, youth or internationality in Germany, regardless of the existing or alleged anti-Americanism.

    So these creative people will only stop creating and using stupid catch phrases or words like “body bags” [for fanny packs!], “outdoor grills”, “Prove of Concept’s” [with Deppenapostroph, of course!], “top-of-mind”, “Livestyle Möbel” or “mobbing” when someone shows them how mistakable and counterproductive their messages are.

    This happened some years ago when a German marketing company simply asked ordinary Germans about the German translation of some popular “English” catch phrases like “Come in and find out” from Douglas or “Powered by Emotion” from SAT1. The results were devastating. For instance, “Come in and find out” was typically interpreted as “Komm herein und finde wieder heraus” and “Powered by Emotion” as “Kraft durch Freude”. For some historical reasons, the later wasn’t viewed as imagefördernd at all, so SAT1 changed it instantly…

  11. > The apostrophe is really the icing on the cake, isn’t it?

    No, I don’t think so. The real icing on the cake is that wonderful German “Ziehen” sign below. I’ve always wondered why Germans need instructions on how to open a door. I mean, there are only two ways to do it, so if pushing doesn’t help, just pull. Can be found out within a second.

  12. @Alwin
    If this is a German speciality, why have I then seen these signs in numerous languages, e.g., “spingere” and “tirare”, or, horribile dictu, “push” and “pull”? Another German “Exportschlager”? ;-P

  13. in the beautiful ahrtal, a sign in a restaurant said: “menu card at english speech!” there’d be plenty to do for you, andrew!

  14. Oh good heavens. Laugh or cry?

    As an American, I apparently don’t speak correct English anyhow. Gotta love being lectured (in dialect, by someone who swears they’re speaking high German) that Oxford English is the true correct English, and that since they had Oxford English in school, the matter isn’t worth discussing.

    Why, anyway, do Germans think that every language has to parallel their own, with a high version and distinct dialects?

  15. “Gotta love being lectured (in dialect, by someone who swears they’re speaking high German) that Oxford English is the true correct English, and that since they had Oxford English in school, the matter isn’t worth discussing.”

    Ah, Molly. I ran into that problem years ago and swiftly found an answer. Agree. Tell them that there are two languages, proper English and the debased patois known as American.

    Then change the subject to ‘great writers of the 20th century’. Hmmm. Steinbeck, Falkner, Hemingway, Bellow, Joyce. All of whom wrote in one debased patois or another. The last great British writer? Jane Austen? Charles Dickens?

    Ah, I have it! Joseph Conrad! An undoubted great English writer. Alas he wasn’t English. Polish, actually.

  16. Why has any discussion here and up in “We’re great and you’re dumb”? I know a couple of great modern and contemporary writers from Ireland & the UK, e.g., Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Ian McEwan. And actually many more from the US which is not surprising as you are much more people :-).

    What is really annoying for the non-native speaker, though, is that when you read literature from both sides of the Atlantic you pick up language bits & pieces from both and end up writing a terrible mixture of American and Britsh English yourself.

  17. OTOH, to imagine a Germany with perfect English written and spoken everywhere (like in Scandinavia or in the Netherlands) is also a bit discomforting. To me, faulty, unprofessional English in public spaces is already part of the German identity. To arrive at Frankfurt airport and to read ads in slightly odd English still makes me feel I have “come home”. There is still that cosy feeling that there are still halfwits at work, even today, even in such allegedly important and international areas, and also that not everything and all spaces on earth are 100% exchangeable.

  18. “We’re great and you’re dumb”?

    This particular conversation always in my experience starts from the British end. My riposte is meant to be either the begining of an interesting discussion (if the Brit has a mind) or as a conversation-killer (if he/she/it doesn’t). And it works pretty well on both counts, I find.

    “from Ireland & the UK, e.g., Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Ian McEwan.”

    Joyce counts as Irish, not British. Just as Dean Swift was Irish, not British. Hardy is generally counted to be a great writer. Can’t say for myself – I could never get into him after several tries. But his last great novel was ‘Jude the Obscure poublished in 1895, so he misses the cut by 5 years.

    I’m not as sure about Woolf. I’ve read one of McEwan’s books. Good, yes. Great?

    Oscap Wild was a great celebrity and a justly celebrated wit and ranconteur. I would not count him as a great writer or playwrite. I certainly would not rate him with any number of the best playwrites – whether American or British. More of an entertainer, I think.

  19. Two more potentially great Brit writers for consideration, Rudyard Kipling and Graham Greene. Kipling is mostly known as a poet I will grant you. Greene seems to have produced some fairly trivial works but his output of serious books (at least 5 by my count) seems to qualify him. One could fault him as a ‘British’ writer by noting that few of his books were about Britian – but one could fault Hemingway for the same reason.

  20. Don:
    “Good, yes. Great?”
    Well, I judge writers on the basis of how well they can play with the language and whether they are able to strike a chord in me, so for me it’s more a matter of personal taste than membership in some kind of a canon. In my book, Ian McEwan is one of the greatest because he is a master of both, although not all his books appeal equally to me. But “Atonement” was a masterpiece, IMHO. I admit that I adore Wilde more for the first. As to Hardy: I somehow missed that you wanted to restrict it to the 20th century and later. I read “Tess of the d’Ubervilles” and was overwhelmed. Woolf: I especially like “Mrs Dalloway”.

    Must admit I never read Kipling or Greene. I’m an admirer of John Le Carre, although you probably wouldn’t count him as a great novelist …

    “Joyce counts as Irish” – that’s why I wrote “from Ireland and the UK” 😉

    As to the great American writers, the first one that comes to my mind is E.A. Poe, but he is pre-20th century too. I have not much connection to Hemingway and Steinbeck and never read Faulkner, but America has some extraordinary contemporary writers (and the following list will probably again seem strange to you, but it’s just my personal taste), like Toni Morrison, Jeffrey Eugenides, Paul Auster (especially the short stories and shorter novels), Wladimir Nabokov, Philp K. Dick, Philip Roth, and numerous others that I will remember as soon as I hit the post button 😉

  21. I’m going to have to look into McEwan. I haven’t read Atonement or Amsterdam, which seem to be what many are talking about. I read one of his earlier novels which I picked up as a cheap read from a charity shop.

    ‘John Le Carre’ – that’s a thought. I enjoy his works, and one of my pet peeves is the way many people automatically downgrade genre writers (i.e. historical fiction, science fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and spy fiction). Didn’t Conrad write a spy novel or two? I regard Le Carre as a serious writer. You made me smile by including Philip Dick – I agree.

    One of the reasons why Americans hold a bit of a chip on our shoulder about this topic is that relatively recently there was a widely-held theory that the US had not and could not produce great writers – that was reserved to the mother country. Poe and Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) were ‘genre’ writers and therefore inferior, and Henry James was practically a Brit. So being able to turn the tables during the 20th century has been – amusing….

    Here’s another writer I love – Colleen McCoulough. Her ‘First Man in Rome’ series is the best historical fiction I’ve read (with the possible exception of Robert Penn Warren’s ‘All the King’s Men’). She’s an Aussie.

  22. Don:
    You really have a point that people tend to look down on the genre novels. E.g. in SciFi, although much of the stuff is really horribly written, there is some good stuff too, e.g. Philip K. Dick, Dean Simmons and Stanislaw Lem come to my mind.

    In the crime genre, I mostly enjoy the British ladies, e.g. Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell and PD James. Elizabeth George, too. She is an American writing excellent British crime stories 😉

    Joseph Conrad: Strangely enough, this is one of the authors that are very hard to read for me in the original, as E.A. Poe, BTW. I fought my way through “Victory”, though, and found it excellent.

    Glad that you agree with me on John Le Carre :-).

    As to Ian McEwan: “Atonement” is his best novel, IMHO, followed closely by “Enduring Love”.

    Colleen McCollough: I’ve read “Birds of Thorn” about 100 years ago in the German translation. Maybe I pick up your tip, I like historical fiction a lot but this genre truely suffers from bad writing, at least in Germany.

  23. Alex,

    If you can find anything by Cordwainer Smith – read it. He was a professor of Eastern Languages at Johns Hopkins University who wrote Sci-Fi in the 50’s. Wonderful, weird stuff – half stories drawn from Chinese myth and half poetry. I’m also partial to Keith Laumer’s Retief series. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Barrayaran series is great work as well.

    ‘First Man in Rome’ was excellent. I’m an afficianado of Roman history but this series taught me a good deal I hadn’t known about the fall of the Roman Republic. The history of that period tends to revolve around the generals (Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Gnaeus Pompey, and Julius Caesar). The series handles these men well. The revelation (to me) were the portraits of powerful senators like Marcus Aemelius Scaurus and Marcus Livius Drusus, who were archetypes of the old guard.

    McCoulough taught me something I hadn’t known before – that the proscriptions of the Senate by Marius and Sulla together killed the Roman Republic by denuding the Senate of it’s most outstanding leaders.

  24. Hi Don,
    I have already ordered “First Man in Rome” from amazon (together with “All the King’s Men”, looking forward to reading it!
    AND I just ordered “Nostrilia” by Cordwainer Smith, never heard of the man but the reviewers outdo themselves on amazon. That has to be good!

  25. I envy you, Alex. Reading those books for the first time is something I can’t ever do again!

    Read Nostrilia and if you like it get ‘The Rediscovery of Man’, a collection of short stories which may be if anything a little better than the novel. You may not like him; Smith/Linebarger is so strange that I think he’s one of those writers with no gray area fans – one either loves him or completely don’t get it. I first read ‘The Ballad of Lost C’Mell’ in a 60’s anthology of Hugo award winners. I can’t find that one online, but here is a link to an online version of ‘Scanners Live in Vain’, another award-winner.
    http://www.webscription.net/chapters/1416521461/1416521461___5.htm

    And here is another link to ‘Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons’, probably my favorite after C’Mell. http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/smith/smith1.html

  26. @Alex:

    “Joyce counts as Irish” – that’s why I wrote “from Ireland and the UK” 😉

    It is true, James Joyce was from Ireland and the UK.

  27. James Joyce was from the UK in the same sense as Pagraig Pearse (leader of the April Uprising of 1916) was from the UK, or Michael Collins (leader of the Irish Revolutionary Army was from the UK. Collins actually spent a considerable part of his life working in England – something which Joyce never did.

    Joyce lived many years in Trieste, Paris, and Zurich but the centre of his mental existance was Dublin.

    Are we next to learn that George Washington was a Brit also?

  28. James Joyce was from the UK in the same sense as Pagraig Pearse (leader of the April Uprising of 1916) was from the UK, or Michael Collins (leader of the Irish Revolutionary Army was from the UK. Collins actually spent a considerable part of his life working in England – something which Joyce never did.

    Joyce lived many years in Trieste, Paris, and Zurich but the centre of his mental existance was Dublin.

    Are we next to learn that George Washington was a Brit also?

  29. @Don:

    James Joyce was from the UK

    Period. Joyce was born and raised in the city of Dublin in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There is no point in even using the term “United Kingdom” or “UK” if you’re not going to include Ireland.

  30. Sebastian:
    True, when Joyce was born in Dublin it was still part of the UK. Today, however, Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

  31. You talk about culture and then turn about and use lrgalities to argue that James Joyce was a British writer? Nonsense. Joyce was as Irish as you get. Next you will assert that Walter Scott was British – or that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams were British. And Alcide DeGasperi was an Austrian.

    They were born in the UK but didn’t die there….

  32. @Alex:

    True, when Joyce was born in Dublin it was still part of the UK. Today, however, Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

    Thanks for this information, I didn’t know that at all.

    @Don:

    You talk about culture and then turn about and use lrgalities to argue that James Joyce was a British writer?

    I can’t remember having talked about culture.

  33. “There is no point in even using the term “United Kingdom” or “UK” if you’re not going to include Ireland.”

    Sebastian, I think you are a bit behind the times. Ireland split from the UK no later than 1923, when the Irish ‘Free Republic’ was formed. The mental and cultural split occurred much earlier than that although I suppose one could argue that it really showed during the Easter Uprising of 1916. But that was just the beginning of the final split – the split started no later than thew 1830’s.

    Arguing that James Joyce is a Brit in any way is like arguing that Mao Tse Tung was a Manchu because he was born in China when the Manchus still ruled. Absurd.

  34. Don:
    Sebastian is of course right that it makes no sense to use the term UK when you only mean Great Britain.

    When I said “Writers from Ireland and the UK”, though, I meant UK as it is now, i.e. the United Kingdom of Great Britain and _Northern_ Ireland, not including Dublin and the territory of today’s Republic of Ireland. Somebody coming from today’s UK is not automatically a Brit, he could also be from Northern Ireland. Somebody coming from the UK in Joyce’s time could have been from Dublin.

    Just some nitpicking or “klugscheissen”, as we say in Germany 🙂

  35. @Don:

    Arguing that James Joyce is a Brit in any way is like arguing that Mao Tse Tung was a Manchu because he was born in China when the Manchus still ruled. Absurd.

    Nobody is arguing that, though. You’re fighting with a strawman.

  36. “Somebody coming from today’s UK is not automatically a Brit, he could also be from Northern Ireland. ”

    Smile when you say that, podner. I rather doubt EITHER Greenmen or Orangemen view themselves as ‘UK’. One could easily extend this to Scotland and Wales also. Let me assure you that the SNP and Plaid Cymru do NOT think of themselves that way!

    One cannot think of the UK as a cultural entity, I think. Parts of the Commonwealth (notably Australia, most of Canada, and possibly New Zealand) may have approached that kind of feeling for a time. But no longer, I think.

    A similar perspective may have onece applied to part of the Irsih populace. The Anglo-Irish ruling class viewed themselves as ‘British’ or part of the UK. And Irish of course. The GPO and Nelson’s column were British artifacts, as were the Castle and much of Georgian Dublin. But the Irish Celtic peasantry were never ‘British’ in the way that (say) the Shropshire peasants were.

    That is why ‘Up went Nelson’ was such an important cultural signal. I refer to the Provisional IRA’s dynamiting of the duplicate of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square which stood proudly in front of the GPO in Dublin until 1966.

    That column was a symbol of Anglo-Irish Briticism and proudly asserted that Ireland was British. The Provos blew Nelson to kindom come on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rebellion (‘A Terrible Beauty’). It was the Provos finest hour and a definitive statement that ‘No we’re not’ (British, that is).

    James Joyce was a Celt, not Anglo-Irish. So don’t claim him as a Brit.

  37. Don, the point Sebastian was trying to make is that a Brit is somebody coming from Great Britan, which excludes any part of Ireland automatically. The only addition the entity “UK” makes to the entity of “Great Britain” (consisting of England, Wales, and Scotland)is Northern Ireland. You seem to use the both terms “UK” and “Great Britain” interchangeable which is not correct.

  38. @Don:

    “Somebody coming from today’s UK is not automatically a Brit, he could also be from Northern Ireland. ”

    Smile when you say that, podner. I rather doubt EITHER Greenmen or Orangemen view themselves as ‘UK’.

    I’m sure you’ll put a smile on the face of every Ulster Unionist when you tell them they’re not really a part of the UK. The nonchalance with which you brush aside the idea of a common national identity in, let’s say, Glasgow and Manchester, is also very disarming. But all this doesn’t really matter. Because whatever they “view themselves as,” they’re still in the UK, and they know it.

    I know it’s technical. I don’t want to get to the “core of the matter,” as it were, because the core of the matter seems to be your attempt to prove that there are few great writers from Great Britain, because they’re either not British or not great. That is not only an utterly silly discussion to have, there’s also no reason to have it either. You brought it up out of thin air. So I feel disinclined to engage in it.

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