Borrowing (German and other languages)

Subject: Borrowing (German and other languages)
From: Maynard Hogg <maynard -at- GOL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 6 May 1997 10:46:40 +0900

At [Mon, 5 May 1997 12:23:42 +0200]
Erich Schildhauer <Erich -dot- Schildhauer -at- poet -dot- de> wrote:

> I think it is fair to point out that it is common practice in
> many languages, including German, to borrow words from other languages.
> German also uses Hardware, Software, Computer, and E-Mail (just to
> mention a few). In some cases there may indeed be some pretension to
> sounding chic. On the other hand, it may just be the easiest way to
> refer to a new thing using the names that comes with it.

And then there's English: "We steal from everyone." <g> First, we
grafted French vocabulary onto Germanic syntax after 1066, and it's all
downhill from there.

A German technical translator here in Tokyo once (half-jokingly)
described the borrowing process as follows:

(1) Use the English term as is for the new concept.

(2) Make up a purely German replacement.

(3) Go back to the original English because the German replacement is
too long.

BTW, this was before Windows began placing such a high premium on screen
real estate.

The Japanese have a different approach (we'll skip the classical
borrowings from Chinese):

(1) Transliterate an English term on the Procrustean bed of Japanese
phonetics. (All too frequently, the source English word are not the
English name for the concept. See examples below.)

(2) Shorten the unwieldy string that results to something shorter and
totally unrecognizable--e.g., torque converter becomes *torukon*.

And then there are things like *konpane*, which in the Windows 95J
context means "control panel"--as opposed to a car's *inpane* (from
"instrument panel")--but is more widely used as a plywood form for
pouring concrete. Note that the source term "concrete panel" has an
entirely different meaning in English.


Maynard Hogg
#306, 4-30-10 Yoga, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan 158
Fax: +81-3-3700-7399
Internet: maynard -at- gol -dot- com
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