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Pseudo-Anglicism

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In German and other major languages, pseudo-Anglicisms are words borrowed from English but used in a way native English speakers of English would not readily recognize or understand. They are related to false friends or false cognates. Many speakers of German, for example, believe pseudo-Anglicisms like these to be real English words:

  • Twen - anyone who is in their "twenties" or the age itself.
  • Talkmaster - a talk show host
  • Dressman - a male model
  • fesch - Austrian German construct for smart, natty, chic, attractive or dashing which originated in the English "fashionable".

There are also pseudo-Anglicisms that are proper English words but are used in German with totally different meanings. Thus a "Smoking" in German is not a "smoking jacket" in the Edwardian sense, but means a "dinner-jacket" or "tuxedo", and a "Handy" is not something that is useful or accessible but a mobile phone. German spoken with many English words is called Genglish[?] or Denglisch[?].

There are, of course, pseudo-Anglicisms in French as well as other languages, and it may be hoped other examples will demonstrate this and be included in this article. French spoken with a high proportion of English words is often called "Franglais".

One example should be noted from the Japanese (or "Engrish"), that of karaoke, the abbreviated form of kara empty + ôkesutora orchestra, the English version of its Greek original. It stands, of course, for the singing of popular tunes by various members of an audience to the accompaniment of prerecorded tapes.

Adopted and adapted words probably find a home in all host languages from many original languages. Though I have not been able to find terms to cover these in German or French, we have at least some examples which might be called "pseudo-Germanisms" and "pseudo-Gallicisms".

Examples of German words in English which have adapted:

  • Blitz - ("The Blitz") the sustained attack by the German Luftwaffe from 1940-1941 which began after the Battle of Britain. It was adapted from "Blitzkrieg", "lightning war", the sudden and overwhelming attack on many smaller European countries and their defeat by the Wehrmacht. "Blitz" has never been used in actual German in its aerial-war aspect and became an entirely new usage in English during World War II. The word has also been adopted by American football to describe a defensive play when defensive backs join the linemen in an attempt to overwhelm the quarterback.
  • (to) strafe - in its sense of "to machine-gun troop assemblies and columns from the air", became a new adaptation during World War II, of the German word "strafen" - to punish.

Another example, a Russian adaptation of a German word is "parikmakher" - barber or hairdresser, which derives from German Perück(en)macher which in its turn has the equivalent (peri)wig maker or peruke maker in English. Originally the word comes from the Italian perrucca, via the French perruque. It is thus that an erstwhile wig-maker of centuries ago has been changed to a hairdresser in a modern language.

At least one French word has found a home in English, although it continued in its adopted language in its original obsolete form centuries after it had changed its morpheme in national French:

  • double entendre - was used in English long after it had changed to "double entente" or "double sens" in France, and has of course two meanings, one of which is of a sexually dubious nature. This might be classed a kind of "pseudo-Gallicism".

Further reading for false cognates and pseudo-Anglicisms:
NTC's Dictionary of German False Cognates; Geoff Parkes and Alan Cornell; 1992; National Textbook Company; NTC Publishing Group



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