German Word of the Week: ‘Agathe Bauer’

I hope everyone enjoyed the excursion into game theory and the Estonian Museum Locker Paradox. Many of you are now probably harboring doubts about my mental state, but that’s the risk I took in the name of Science.

And now for something completely different. I can’t believe I’ve been living in Dear Old Deutschland forever, but just learned what ‘Agathe Bauer’ songs are today. Let me clarify. First, let’s fade into 1990, with the dancefloor classic ‘I Got the Power’:

Parachute pants, flat-tops, primary colors, sampant rampling, — it’s all there. Still holds up pretty well, I’d say. When Germans heard this song, many thought ‘I Got the Power!’ was ‘Agathe Bauer’.* It turns out that native German speakers constantly hear phrases in their native language within English pop songs. Some of them absurd, some perverse.

Eventually, the entire phenomenon came to be known from its most famous instance, “I Got the Power/Agathe Bauer’, and songs which are misunderstood by Germans are now ‘Agatha Bauer’ songs. Here’s a recording of a radio call-in program (all in German, except the song titles and lyrics) in which Germans discuss their favorite ‘Agatha Bauer’ songs:

The irony is that “I Got the Power/Agathe Bauer” is a song by a German group, Snap! Here is a fun fact from the Wikipedia article about the song:

The song opens with the somewhat enigmatic line in Russian“Американская фирма Transceptor Technology приступила к производству компьютеров «Персональный спутник»” (meaning “The American company Transceptor Technology has started production of the ‘Personal Companion’ computer”). “Personal Companion” was a computer-like device for the blind and visually impaired. Released in 1990, it was controlled by voice and could, among other functions, automatically download articles from USA Today by a built-in modem. It was made by Transceptor Technologies of Ann Arbor, Michigan

* The English term for this is “kiss this guy”, from the lyrics to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’, which many people heard as “Excuse me, while I kiss the sky”, even though what Hendrix actually sung was “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy.” Or maybe the other way around. Anyhoo, there’s a whole website, kissthisguy, devoted to English speakers mishearing English song lyrics.

4 thoughts on “German Word of the Week: ‘Agathe Bauer’

  1. What’s sadly rare is English speakers mishearing German lyrics. Because when they do the result is spectacular:

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