My mind, my thoughts, my words

About a word that’s been used on 9 websites, according to google search results. 10 with this post.*

snailsA vivid discussion on facebook yesterday. I wrote “ich popp kurz aufm Nachhauseweg vorbei“ on a friend’s wall. Literally “I pop briefly on-the way-home over” meaning “I’ll briefly pop in on my way home”. A friend (who learns German) asked whether “pop by”, i.e. my German “vorbeipoppen” had entered the German lexicon. No. That is just my screwed-up German (see this post).
In fact, when you say “poppen”, Germans think of something completely different (refer to this translation please). For me, however, this denotation has been ‘replaced’ by the English one.
I frequently borrow words or proverbs from English when the German one doesn’t ‘pop into’ my head; I make the word obey phonological and morphological principles so that it sounds more German, or translate the proverb literally (which usually ends up making no or little sense [e.g. “I am looking forward to” – you’d never say “Ich schaue vorwärts/nach vorn zu…”]). Interestingly though, I am not saying to pop in” (“hineinpoppen” I suppose, since “hinein” is the only translation for “in” that sounds somewhat right in this expression) in German, rather “to pop over” (which wouldn’t be used in the above context). Any ideas why?
In the end of the day, no matter how much I enjoy creating neologisms, it is rather unlikely that “vorbeipoppen” will anytime soon enter the German lexicon. Not only because of the current meaning of “poppen” but also because “to pop in/round” is used in Britain and anglicisms in German tend to come from American English…

Ms J. (it was her wall I posted on and she was part of that discussion), I really think you should NOT get on that plane tomorrow – can’t you see what’s happening to my German? You need to stay to keep my language skills alive!

No. I don’t have skype. Actually, I don’t even have internet access, you know. Seems as if you really have to stay!

If you do leave anyway, do me the favour and use vorbeipoppen and let me know how people react 😉 (I expect increasingly more google search results as time goes by!) And think of me when you listen to this song that I only like because of that very pop.

*I didn’t include websites containing conjugated forms of “vorbeipoppen”

2 comments on “About a word that’s been used on 9 websites, according to google search results. 10 with this post.*

  1. Kevin

    I had a similar experience only a few weeks ago. I was sitting next to my Flemish colleague who speaks German fluently and said something like ‘…und dann sind wir mit diesem Problem abgeendet’. After incredulously staring at each other for five seconds to figure out what I was trying to say we spent another 5 seconds staring at each other trying to figure out how on earth we both understood what I was trying to say even though the sentence seemed make no sense at all. At some point we figured out that I had borrowed English ‘to end up with sth.’ (which there seems to be no good equivalent idiom for in German!)

    What’s funny is that I chose to replace English ‘up’ with German ‘ab’ which is phonetically closest but neither etymologically nor semantically related at all (it should be ‘auf’ in both cases). A google search tells me not only that ‘abenden’ is actually an existing word (although its traditional meaning is ‘to end with sth.’ or ‘to end on sth.’), but also that I’m not the first one to borrow it in the same way. There are already a few people who ‘in einem Restaurant Karaoke singend abgeendet [sind]’ or someone talking about ‘wo der neue Markt abgeendet ist’, which I think are both borrowed and not German ‘abenden’ which frankly I’ve never heard or used before. There are also a few attestations of ‘_mit_ etw. abenden’ in which case the borrowing is even clearer.

    By the way: be glad that your language ‘decay’ is only between two languages, and that the directionality is clear. My colleagues are all Flemish and they speak Dutch to each other which I understand, and even though I also write my e-mails in Dutch I normally speak English to them (with the exception of the one colleague I’m speaking German to). Plus I’m living in a French-speaking city, which I had at school for four yours, but don’t speak. And although my Moroccan flatmate’s English is really good he frequently brings friends around who only speak Arabic, French and Spanish, which means I end up speaking a mix of the latter two (had Spanish for three years, don’t really speak it either, but my French+Spanish vocabulary neatly complement each other). Unfortunately for my interlocutors I can’t remember any of the Romance function words, so I automatically throw in Dutch complementisers and other linking words all the time, simply because those are the ones I’m learning and memorising at the moment. Witnessing creolisation first hand. It’s not that great I can tell you. (I’ve also started to use Dutch word order when speaking German which by now sounds totally natural to me. During my last visit back home people were looking at me in strange ways and all I could do was to assure them that how I’m ordering my verbs is proper Dutch syntax. Oh well.)

    About _vorbei_poppen: I’ve never really used English ‘pop in’, I’ve always been more of a ‘drop by’ person, in which case ‘vorbei’ would be the correct preposition. Maybe it’s actually a mix of the two idioms because the straightforward ‘reinpoppen’ translation would sound..erm, weird?

  2. Christopher

    ‘He popped over / by / round / in to see me this afternoon’ all sound equally natural English to me. Think they have slightly different meanings though. All refer to a brief visit, by ‘by’ emphasizes coming and going again, perhaps en route to somewhere else; ‘in’ emphasizes the visit itself; ‘over’ emphasizes the journey to get to the visit, and ’round’ sort of refers to the whole process in general. You can say ‘drop in’ and ‘drop by’ as well (as in ‘drop-in centre) but ‘drop round’ doesn’t sound as good and ‘dropped over’ sounds like falling over or ‘dropping dead’.

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This entry was posted on 11/05/2011 by in Academia, Linguistic Musings and tagged , , .
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