German excursion: Denglish


Interestingly enough, this Denglish habit is also a Dunglish one: splitting words in two to save space (time, being lazy, all kinds of reasons). The problem of course is that the author followed the rules of German instead of English. Both ‘Sunday’ and ‘holiday’ should be plural (there’s more than one in a year) and holiday is capitalised, again following German rules. That’s a lot of mistakes in five words. You could also debate that it should read ‘national holidays’, ‘public holidays’, ‘bank holidays’, someone stop me.

When in doubt, write it out or ask, just like for directions, it won’t hurt.

For anyone who wants to know why I was in Germany (shameless self-promotion), click here.


12 Responses to “German excursion: Denglish”

  1. yoastie says:

    I just finished writing the same word twice in English to stick with the English rules, but the Dutch/German way is a lot simpler…

    I have no doubt they’re closed when they’re on holiday, even though it is unlikely that that is what they mean…

  2. Natashka says:

    Writing ‘the’ all the time, we could lose. Using personal pronouns could be eliminated in some cases, but that’s not the rules 😉

    And the funny thing is, no matter what the Germans or Dutch write, it will always be about 15% more than in English.

  3. Branko Collin says:

    A suspended hyphen is valid in English, you just do not see it used very often. It’s this instance that is wrong, but you can write things like “macro- and microeconomics”.

  4. Koos says:

    I think you should call this Genglish rather than Denglish. Denglish comes from “Dutch” and “English”, which are both English words themselves. Denglish would come from “Deutsch” and “English”, with “Deutsch” of course being the German name for… “German”.

    So besides the fact that this would not be a very consistent way of inventing these names, it could also be misinterpreted as Dunglish itself. A very common mistake made by the Dutch is to talk about “Dutch” when they really mean “German” just because “Dutch” resembles both “Duits” and “Deutsch”.

    So if where gonna be laughing over these sort of mistakes, we’d probably want to do everything within our power to make sure we don’t get accused of what we’re laughing about ourselves 😉

  5. Natashka says:


    Denglish does come from “Deutsch” and “English”, I didn’t make it up.

    Dutch was the wrong word at the time – blame the English.

    “It would be a mistake for an English speaker to assume a direct similarity for the words Dutch and ‘Deutsch’, the German word for “German”. The word “Dutch” derived from the 16th century Middle Dutch word ‘Dietsch’ or ‘Duitsch’, which referred to the Dutch language. Over time, this word has become the modern Dutch word ‘Duits’, which actually refers to the German language (Deutsch).”

  6. Koos says:

    Fair enough if you didn’t make it up on the spot, I for one had never heard of this term.

    But you realize you’re now blaming the English for this shift of meaning that took place in the Dutch and German languages, or rather, you’re blaming the English for not going along with this shift and sticking to the original meaning. A Dutch saying involving kitchen gear comes to mind 😛

    It does proof how conservative the English language is though.

  7. Larry says:

    Suspended hyphens in English are fine for things like ‘micro- and macroeconomics’ but not cutesy Dutch/Dunglish usages like ‘im- & export’, ‘in- & extern(al)’. And definitely not ‘Sun- and holidays’.

  8. Branko Collin says:

    The Nederlandse Taalunie advises against using “im- & export”. Their argument: “import” and “export” words borrowed from English, and therefore sound wrong if you were to split them up. They play a lot by ear: “pre- en suffixen” sounds right, “suf- en prefixen” does not. “In- en uitvoer” is fine.

    Apparently there is some sort of invisible line indicating when you can use suspended hyphens. These lines are probably different for Dutch and English.

    For example it took me a while to find the “micro- and macroeconomics” example, because three or four sites seemed to suggest that suspended hyphens can only be used for already hyphenated words, such as “pro- and anti-war arguments”, “three- and four-part harmonies” and so on.

    If “Zondag” were capitalized in Dutch, I think you would see far less instances of “Zon- en feestdagen,” by the way. But that’s just a guess.

  9. Larry says:

    I don’t think ‘zondag’ is really separable in the same way that ‘feestdag’ is, but I don’t know how to explain it. ‘Op maan- en dinsdagen gesloten’ doesn’t seem right, for example, but ‘s maandags en dinsdags does.

    The issue is probably that ‘s zondags en op feestdagen seemed too long for someone, who thought they could truncate it in a clever way.

  10. Jos says:

    I’d say that “im- & export” would sound wrong, because of the rule that the “n” (of “in”) has to be changed to an “m” when preceeding a “p”, right? So “in- & export” would be sounding ok, at least to me 🙂

  11. Larry says:

    Technically the prefix is ‘in-‘ and it assimilates to ‘im-‘ before b, m and p, but to write ‘in- & export’ is effectively to say to the reader, ‘Here, you do the work’.

  12. Joris Amsterdam says:

    “A very common mistake made by the Dutch is to talk about “Dutch” when they really mean “German” just because “Dutch” resembles both “Duits” and “Deutsch”.”

    What do you mean? A Dutchman would never ever say “Dutch” when they mean “Duits” (= Dutch for German). And if they would speak German on holiday they’d say Deutsch as well, never Dutch.

    By the way, the original meaning of older Dutch ‘diets’ is ‘of the people’, ‘popular’.

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