Uber-cool Hipsters Embrace the German Language

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Increasingly, hipsters are using German words in their English sentences. This new trend might only be increasing now that Germany is the winner of the World Cup 2014: however, is the incorporation of German really a recent trend?

According to Matthias Heine, the global hipster community has recently taken a liking to the German language.

In his article on World Crunch, he states that Brendan Strohmaier, writer for the German newspaper Die Welt, was the first to discover this trend. He underlined his discovery with a number of examples such as a new, luxury taxi service called Uber, that operates in several countries.

Heine states that the “Denglish” trend – i.e. the incorporation of German words into the English language – came as a surprise to many. Even though he claims a select group of know-it-alls have long embraced the German “über,” Heine believes the German language seems to be increasingly popular amongst intellectuals.

He gives the example of a New York Times review published in the magazine this May in which the following sentence could be found: “In Blended Adam Sandler once again proclaims himself both über-doofus and ultimate mensch.” According to Heine, this sentence features three German words: “über” and “mensch,” but “doofus” as well, as this word is derived from German, in which the word “doof” has the same meaning as it has in English.

The Oxford English Dictionary, Heine says, features 3,502 German words that thus officially belong to the English language. Many of these words have origins in another language: Heine states that 239 of the German words come from Yiddish, for example. This form of German was spoken by eastern European Jews, but as most of them were killed during the Holocaust, Heine says Yiddish is now mainly spoken by elderly people in the US and Israel.

Heine states the word “mensch” also comes from the Yiddish language. “Mensch” is German for “person,” but in English, the word has obtained another meaning. According to the OED, Heine says, it is used to describe an “honourable, morally upstanding person.” The word has been adopted by some famous writers as well: the word can be found in the writings of both Saul Bellow and Harold Pinter, for example.

According to Heine, language purists don’t have to lose any sleep over the incorporation of  German words in the Times film review. After all, except for “über,” the words have all long been part of the official English language. In addition, he states that “mensch” is common in the vocabularies of Americans living in big US cities with large Yiddish communities.

Heine does wonder whether the writer of the review, A.O. Scott, was aware of the fact that he used Germanisms, or that he used the article as a stylistic exercise. In any case, he can be labelled an uber-hipster!

Image courtesy of Christopher Michel

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