Sunday, September 21, 2008


Parallel English

At the European Court of Justice last week we had a German-language case on used-car imports into Austria. The cars concerned were ones of interest primarily to collectors - not exactly antiques but headed that way.

Actual antique cars are known in German - quite officially - as Oldtimer, which Wikipedia calls a Scheinanglizismus (i.e. a pseudo-loanword from English).

By extension, cars that are old but not old enough to be antiques - the ones at issue in our Austrian case - are called Youngtimer. This, it seems to me, goes well beyond a loanword, pseudo or otherwise. What is borrowed here is not just a word but, in a sense, the language itself - a sort of parallel English.

Other languages have their own pseudo-English, of course: the Japanese salaryman springs to mind. But I can't recall having come across too many other innovations comparable to Youngtimer. The closest perhaps is the likes of French rugbywoman based on the similarly unEnglish rugbyman, both meaning rugby-player.

Interestingly, French words of that kind are inflected according to English rules (plural: rugbymen, rugbywomen) whereas Oldtimer and Youngtimer are inflected like proper German words (no -s in plural, -n in dative plural). In Dutch, which has also adopted these words and with the same meaning, the English -s plural is used.

More examples of pseudo-English in various languages are here (although some of them seem to be purely in the eye of the beholder e.g. German Lift pseudo-English for elevator...?!).

How about Pullunder from Pullover?
Yes, very similar. But at least Pullover itself is a straightforward borrowing, meaning the same thing in both languages afaik.
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