Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: We use German words too!

Did you know that there are many German words that we use as standard English in our language?

People are often surprised when I tell them that but if you look closely at the English language you will find that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of words that are clearly from other languages – French, Russian, India and yes, even Germany. So I thought I’d amuse you by giving you a handful.

First up are some words that are used in exactly the same meaning as German even if we pronounce them in a distinctly English accent such as zeitgeist, gestalt and rucksack. Yes, that last word has no umlaut as we don’t have that available to us and we pronounce that first syllable as if it rhymed with “bus”. Normally, these words would all be written with a small letter in English because we reserve capital letters for names and proper nouns but I’m not sure that this is something we have a hard and fast rule for in these contexts. I found them online with both forms.

We use the word “Schadenfreude” to accompany the English verb of “to gloat” as we have no noun of our own!

A poltergeist is a particular type of mischievous ghost often connected with loud sounds or moving objects and is therefore different to your regular English ghost.

If someone has angst in England, this doesn’t refer to a general fear of something. We apply it in a much more personal way referring to anxiety or worry in particular about personal problems. We often use it in connection to the strong feelings that teenagers have and “teenage angst” is a very popular collocation. 

We have kindergarten, bratwurst, muesli, pretzel, sauerkraut, doppelganger, wanderlust and kitsch, which are all used in regular language. If you read the business pages of the newspapers, you might come across references to the Mittelstand or the Energiewende or even Wirtschaftswunder because the words are known and used in the specific context without the need to translate.

If someone sneezes and you wish them “Gesundheit!” you will be understood even though we have our own expression of “Bless you”!

And my personal favourite, which I have seen becoming more and more popular over the years, is to prefix an adjective with the German word “uber” (again, no umlaut). This makes the adjective mean more or extra. So, it might be something like, “Wow! That’s so uber-cool!” or “Did you hear that John got the manager’s job? He’s so uber-ambitious.” This has become such a standard use of the word today that you might even find it in very high quality publications such as the Economist. Of course, Uber is also widely known as the growing “taxi” business and in this context, it has also entered the English language as a colloquial verb form as in, “Let’s Uber to the theatre this evening.”

Personally, I love it when I’m reading an article from the BBC or the above-mentioned Economist and we come across a German word used in a perfectly English context and really, I should keep a list of them. We always stop to comment on them and think about if this is a new insertion in the English language or something far more entrenched.

Why not look out for these words yourself? After all, you won’t need to learn them as new vocabulary, will you?


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings