Whilst analysing or comparing one’s own language with a foreign language, many people find it helpful to look for words that are well-known or similar to their own language. This stems from the fact that most languages have evolved from Latin. Latin is the mother of almost all languages worldwide, so it is not surprising that it has left marks on individual words. This article does not deal with Latin roots in English, but with German words applied in English.
It is surprising how many German words are known and used in foreign languages (not only in English), and there are various reasons that other languages adopt them. One such reason might be that in a particular language there is no true equivalent word and thus a translation is not possible. Another reason might be that the word is specific to the region where it is from and therefore expresses the original background meaning.
The following are some loan German words used in English. The list below is only a short summary of the most popular words.
Food & Drink
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On the other hand, sometimes it also happens that a language uses words from a foreign language, but misunderstands the correct meaning, as the following examples show.
“English” words in German
The term Bodybag is used in German language for describing a bag carried close to the body. A small difference to the English meaning of body bag, which is a bag used for dead bodies. Another term, Handy, is used to mean a cell phone by German people, who are unaware that it does not mean the same in English. The last example is the term Mobbing which in German expresses bullying. For a longer list of anglicisms in German click here. The amount may surprise you!
All together it has to be said that is important to know the exact meaning of a word before using a foreign term. However, the best option is to use words from one’s own language (if possible) and to try not to use foreign language words, even if the correct meaning is not known.
Do you know any other German words used in English? Or can you add anything to what I have mentioned here… I am looking forward to reading your comments! Alternitavely, if you’re looking for more information about our German language services then click here.
We all love a good laugh and branding cockups don’t ever fail to deliver. I bet the new brand decision makers for these well-known brand names most certainly weren’t too happy – but it’s great entertainment for us. Who in their right mind would name their company ‘F***ing Hell’ – I kid you not. Read on to find out about that and many other hilarious branding cock-ups.
Baniff translated a slogan claiming finely upholstered seats “Fly in Leather”. When this was translated into Spanish it comes out as “Fly Naked.”Clairol
Clairol marketed a curling iron as “Mist Stick”. Unfortunately “mist” in German is a slang word for manure.
When Colgate launched a product in France it decided upon the name brand name “Cue”. Unfortunately if they had done their market research they would have realised that “Cue” is also the name of a French pornographic magazine. This must have caused confusion for customers shopping in the supermarket when asking for Cue to brush their teeth with.
The well known American beer brand Coors suffered an unfortunate mishap when it launched it’s product in Spain. Their marketing team chose the slogan “turn it loose” which in Spain is a colloquial term for diarrhoea.
World famous vacuum cleaner manufacturer Electrolux chose the slogan “Nothing suck like an Electrolux” when they launched their product in America. Of course sucks is a reference in American slang that means bad or poor. Of course this is also considered and urban legend of translation but would still be funny if it were true!
Ford launched a car in Brazil called the Ford Pinto. Unfortunately in Brazillian Portuguese Pinto also means “tiny male genitals”
American meat processing and poultry farming company Perdue Farms used the slogan “it takes a tough man to make tender chicken” to try and appeal to some of the masculine male customers in Spain. However when this slogan is translated into Spanish it comes through as “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate”.
Everyone knows Ikea right? Ikea is a world recognised furniture store that began in Sweden. However when they launched in Thailand they didn’t realise that some of their Swedish names mean “sex” or “third base” in Thai. Also in China Ikea’s Chinese website advertised a stuffed wolf toy called Lufsig, or Lo Mo Sai (路姆西). This unfortunately contained a homophobe of Hai (閪), a profane Cantonese word meaning “vagina”. The name itself could be written as Lo Mo Hai (老母閪) which means “mothers Vagina”.
Fast food restaurant chain KFC made some Chinese customers feel uncomfortable or just confused with their slogan “finger licking good”. When the restaurant chain launched in China their slogan translated to “eat your fingers off”.
Mercedes Benz launched in China under the brand name “Bensi”. Which in China means “rush to die”.
Sportswear manufacturer Nike was forced to recall thousands of it’s products when the design on some of it’s products was deemed too similar to the Arabic word for Allah.
Electrical giant Panasonic launched a new web ready PC using a Woody Woodpecker theme. Not too bad in itself except the slogan they used was “Touch Woody : The Internet Ready Pecker”.
The makers of premium pens Parker Pens launched in Mexico using it’s slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Unfortunately this was mistranslated as “It won’t leak in your product and make you pregnant.
Iranian consumer goods company Paxam marketed it laundry soap using the Farsi word for “snow”. This resulted in packaging been labelled as “Barf Soap”.
American branded Puffs Facial Tissues, from Procter and Gamble, entered into the German market. Unfortunately they didn’t realise that “Puff” is a German slang word for brothel.
The American Dairy Association used it’s slogan “Got Milk?” as it’s slogan in Spanish speaking markets. This was translated as “Are you lactating?”. Bit of a personal question don’t you think?
Procter and Gamble brand Vicks moved into the German market with it’s cough drops. In German the pronunciation of “V” is actually “F” which made “Vick” slang for sexual intercourse in Germany.
When the name of the Toyota MR2 is pronounced in French it is phonetically similar to “mede” in French, which is their word for “shit”.
Motoring manufacturer Mitsubishi found that their Pajero product name as the same as the Spanish word for “wanker” when they launched in Spain.
Japanese motor company Honda initially launched their Honda Jazz as the Honda Fitta. However when their marketing team contacted their Swedish office with the name they found out that Fitta is a slang word for “vagina” in Swedish and Norwegian. They promptly decided on the Jazz although Japan kept the “Fit” brand for it’s home market.
I know what your thinking. How rude. How profane. However Fucking Hell is the name of a German Pilsner beer brewed in Germany. When they launched the brand in 2010 they upset the European Union due to the nature of the word and it’s expletive nature in the English language. However the brand name refers to an actual town in Austria which is in fact called Fucking whereas as Hell in Germany refers to pale lager. They launched an appeal against the original EU decision to disallow this name and they won.
Below is a short list of some actual products that are available on sale in various countries. Are they marketing mistakes or are they genius in advertising? Decide for yourselves!
- Crapsy Fruit, a French breakfast cereal
Alu-Fanny, a French aluminium foil
Atum Bom, a Portuguese brand of tinned tuna
Kack, Danish confectionery
Plopp, a Swedish chocolate bar
Mukk, an Italian yogurt
Bimbo, a brand of bread in Spain and the Americas
Slag, a Belgian lager
Kum Onit, a German make of pencil sharpeners
- Pschitt, a French fizzy soft drink
How much do you think the ‘cock-ups’ cost each company? Get in touch with us for professional translations, that are localised and right on the mark – every time!
It’s no secret that Ed Sheeran wrote his latest album while travelling the world and soaking up different cultures and styles of music. But he went further than that. He also isn’t afraid to delve into the world of languages either. What’s most impressive is his commitment to getting the foreign lyrics and their pronunciation spot on, and he has previously said he would only sing in other languages if he could do it properly.
However, it’s not just on his latest album that he tries his hand at other languages, but in songs recorded before and after too. Take a look below!
Twi – “Boa Me” & “Bibia Be Ye Ye”
Last year Ed teamed up with Highlife and Afrobeats artist Fuse ODG to create a new track called “Boa Me”, where Sheeran sings the entire chorus in flawless Twi – a dialect from Ghana. The song was actually written at Fuse ODG’s house in Ghana with his friends, and Ed has described it as “probably the most fun I’ve had writing a song”. The song peaked at #52 in the UK charts. While it didn’t reach the top 40, this upbeat track is definitely worth a listen!
This actually isn’t even the first time that the Twi language has featured on an Ed Sheeran track! The song/lyrics “Bibia be ye ye” from the Deluxe version of his latest album ÷ (Divide), is also Twi, and means “all will be well”. Fuse ODG was also involved in the writing of this song which peaked at #18 on the UK chart.
Spanish – “Barcelona”
“Barcelona” is another song which appears on the Deluxe version of ÷ (Divide), and this time Ed takes on Spanish at the end of the song which includes the following lyrics:
Mi niña, te amo mi cariño
Sí tú, te adoro, señorita
Los otros, viva la vida
Siempre vida, Barcelona
In case you’re wondering, “Mamacita” roughly translates as “hot mama”!
This is another feel-good song which tries to incorporate the atmosphere in this amazing city. It charted at #12 in the UK charts.
Italian – Perfect Symphony
Spanish isn’t the only language from mainland Europe that Ed sings in! After the incredible success of “Perfect” (initially debuting at #4, before climbing to #3), and then “Perfect Duet” with Beyoncé which propelled the song to #1 in the charts, Sheeran collaborated with Italian legend Andrea Bocelli to create a more operatic version, known as “Perfect Symphony”. Bocelli translated part of the song into Italian but it’s not just him who sings the Italian, with Ed also joining in. Incidentally this is also the first song in which Ed collaborated with his brother Matthew, himself a classical composer, and whose string section appears on both this and the original version.
Gaelic – Thinking Out Loud
Ed is clearly in touch with his Irish roots, spending plenty of time across the Irish sea with his family, having some tattoos in Gaelic, and also musically with two Irish-influenced songs “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan” appearing on ÷. But he went even further back in 2015 by recording a Gaelic translation of one of his biggest hits “Thinking Out Loud”. It was recorded especially to be included on the album CEOL 2016, which was that year’s album from Conradh na Gaeilge (an organisation promoting the Irish language) and their Irish-language radio station Raidió Rí Rá, produced for “Irish week” (Seachtain na Gaeilge), featuring Gaelic tracks from the best Ireland has to offer.
The whole song is translated into, and sung in Gaelic, which I think we’ll all agree is pretty impressive! I’ll leave it up to native Gaelic speakers to let us know how good his pronunciation is, but I’m sure, as with the other songs, he wouldn’t have released it if he wasn’t able to get it right, as is his great professionalism and his respect for other languages and cultures.
Keep up the great work Ed!
Today is one of the best day of the year: the international French Fries Day. But let’s find out something about most people’s favourite guilty pleasure.
Apparently, French fries are not French at all. Their origin can be tracked back to Belgium, where potatoes were allegedly being fried in the late-1600s. The legend says that poor villagers in Meuse Valley used to eat small fried fish they caught in the river but, as the river would freeze during winter, they had to find an alternative source of food. When the potato was introduced in the continent, the villagers began preparing the root plant in the same way they used to treat the fish: slicing and frying it. And this is how the earliest “French” fries were born.
So, how come they’re called FRENCH fries? It seems that it’s Americans’ fault. When American soldiers were stationed in Belgium during World War I they were introduced to the fried goodness and, as the official language spoken by the Belgian army was French, they started calling it “French fries”. As most misunderstandings in history, once the name was spread there was no way to correct it. And we still call them “French” after centuries, and will probably keep on doing so for quite a while.
But is this a mistake that only English speakers make? Let’s have a look on how everybody’s favourite side dish is called in different countries.
France/Belgium (French): les pommes frites / les frites
Belgium (Dutch): friet/fritten
China: 薯条 shu tiao (potato stripe or stick)
Czech Republic: hranolky (little prisms)
Finland: ranskalaiset perunat (French potatoes) or ranskalaiset (French)
Germany: Pommes / pommesfrites
Greece: τηγανιτές πατάτες tiganites patates
Italy: patatine fritte
Japan: フライドポテト furaido poteto (Fried potatoes)
Korea: 감자 튀김 Gamja twigim
Latin America: papas fritas
Columbia/Mexico: papas a la francesa
Portugal: batatas fritas
Romania: (Belgian) cartofi prajiti
Russia: картофелем фри kartofel’ fri
Sweden: franske kartofler (French potatoes)
The Netherlands (Dutch): patat frites / Vlaamse friet (Flemish fries)
The fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America’s birthday. However today, the United States are going to celebrate their flag day, which was first created on June 14, 1777.
On that day the resolution read: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation. ”
The first celebration of the U.S. flag’s birthday was held in 1877 on the 100th anniversary of the flag resolution. However, it is believed that the first recognition of the flag’s birthday dates back to 1885, when the school teacher, BJ Cigrand, organised a group of Wisconsin school children to observe June 14. Cigrand is now known as “Father of Flag Day”.
The anniversary of the flag resolution was officially established by the proclamation of the President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. However, the flag day is not considered as an official federal holiday, except for New York and Pennsylvania, which on June 1937 became the first U.S. state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday. On the other side, New York statutes designate the second Sunday in June as Flag Day, a state holiday.
Flag Day parade
The 68th Annual Appleton Flag Day Parade was held on June 9, 2018. Appleton Wisconsin, claims indeed to be the oldest National Flag Day Parade in the nation, which is held annually since 1950. Nevertheless the oldest one probably takes place in Fairfield, Washington, that began in 1909 or 1910.
This year the Appleton parade was preceded by a patriotic concert and flags were handed out along the Parade route one hour before the Parade began.
Nowadays, Parades do not only celebrate the flag. They are also to celebrate the army, honouring men and women that are serving the army forces and also veterans.
If today you feel the Americanism in the air, do not forget the Danish Day Flag tomorrow 15th of June!
Are you aware of your country’s Flag Day?
Here few examples:
Italy: 7th of January
England: 23rd of April
Wales: 1st of March
Scotland: 30th of November
Romania: 26th of June
Canada: 15th of February
European Union: 9th of May
Lithuania: 1st of January
Moldova: 27th of April
Norway: 17th of May
Portugal: 1st of December
Ukraine: 23rd of August
Signing up a birth
You might’ve seen my blog a few weeks ago about an Iranian couple who required an interpreter for the birth of their child. I’m sure anyone who has given birth or been a birth partner will say it is a scary and traumatic experience. You are hoping that everything runs as smoothly as possible, so a healthy baby arrives. Imagine being surrounded by healthcare professionals and not understanding them…
Luckily, interpreters are on hand to try and reassure the mum-to-be and birth partner with translations from the doctors and midwifes around them. The interpreters can explain what the midwifes expect to happen, if there are any complications. Same with the mum-to-be. She can voice her worries, feelings, pains to the midwifes. Though some things don’t need to be translated.
When you hear that cry from your baby, whatever the language, you know that for that moment, everything is ok. The baby is awake, and out! No interpreter needs to interpret a cry. It can be heard and understood in any language.
Well…. I’ve been watching more of One Born Every Minute (I have it on series link…). And another couple were in to deliver their baby and required an interpreter… a sign language interpreter! Both mum and dad were deaf and were delivering through caesarean. I was very interested in this birth as they wouldn’t be able to hear that cry from their baby… and with caesarean, you might not actually feel the moment your baby is born.
Delivering with signs
Mum and dad, through the sign language interpreter were able to voice their thoughts and feelings about the caesarean and went off to theatre to have their baby delivered. They hadn’t found out the gender of the baby and asked for the midwife to bring the baby around to them, so they could see rather be signed the gender.
The dad made a fair point. With sign language, everything is about sight and feelings – neither would be able to feel the birth due to the aesthetic, but they would be able to see the gender if the baby was brought around to them.
The interpreter did a wonderful job helping both mum and dad in theatre, and when the interpreter heard the baby cry, she immediately signed that over to the parents, so they knew their little one was born and was awake. You could see they were both overwhelmed when they were told, so their new adventure could begin with their baby.
This was probably a very special experience for the sign language interpreter as well! It’s not every day you get to tell a couple their baby has arrived!
Without this interpreter, the experience for mum and dad would’ve been unbearable. They were not able to understand their doctors, and their doctors not understanding them… Interpreters are needed for all sorts of situations in our lives – be it medical, legal, educational… the list goes on. Without them, the bridge between language would be vast. They are the hidden heroes of the world!
I still have a few more weeks of watching One Born Every Minute before my new adventure begins, so you might see another blog on this!!