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(Redirected from Pseudo-anglicism)

Pseudo-Anglicisms are words in languages other than English which were borrowed from English but are used in a way native English speakers would not readily recognize or understand. They are related to false friends or false cognates. Many speakers of a language which employs pseudo-Anglicisms believe that the relevant words are real English words. The following examples are taken from German:

  • 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"
  • Oldtimer - a vintage car (this also occurs in Dutch)
  • Handy - a mobile phone
  • Beamer - a video projector (also in Dutch)

There are also pseudo-Anglicisms that are proper English words but are used in other languages with totally different meanings. Thus a "Smoking" (in German, Dutch, Italian, French and Czech) is not a "smoking jacket" in the Edwardian sense, but means a "dinner-jacket" or "tuxedo"; a "Handy" is not something that is useful or accessible but a mobile phone, and the many Germans carrying a "body bag" with them do not expect to handle dead bodies but rather carry a backpack. When many English words are incorporated into German sentences, German language enthusiasts (especially purists) term it Germish. Similarly, spoken French with a high proportion of English words is often called "Franglais". Pseudo-Anglicisms in Japanese are called wasei-eigo (literally, "Made-in-Japan English").

One example should be noted from the Japanese (or "Engrish"), that of karaoke, the abbreviated form of kara empty + ōkesutora, orchestra. It stands, of course, for the singing of popular tunes by various members of an audience to the accompaniment of prerecorded tapes. Rather than being a kind of pseudo-anglicism this combined Japanese-English/Greek form of "empty orchestra" may be seen to be a particularly fine example of metaphor. Japanese does, however, use other examples of this such as "hōmu", a (train) platform from the latter syllable of the English "platform" (プラットホーム). Also, although the expressions are now out of date, "my home" and "my car" (meaning "one's own home" and "one's own car") enjoyed popularity for many years. English speakers were baffled when they heard questions like "Do you have my home?"

Sometimes these words are imported back into English, often as trademarks, like "walkman" from Japanese English.

Adopted and adapted words from many original languages probably find a home in all host languages. Terms that cover these in German or French 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 linebackers and/or 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. In recent years "strafe" has referred specifically to the horizontal yawing motion of an airplane raking an area with machine-gun fire, and been incorrectly used to mean "to move sideways while looking forward", so that many first-person shooter computer games have "strafe" keys.

Another example, a Russian adaptation of a German word is "парикмахер" (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 parrucca, 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.


Several such French expressions have found a home in English. The first continued in its adopted language in its original obsolete form centuries after it had changed its morpheme in national French:

  • double entendre - still 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".
  • bon viveur - the second word, is not used in French as such while in English it often takes the place of a fashionable man, a sophisticate, a man used to elegant ways, a man-about-town, in fact a bon vivant. In French a viveur is a rake or debauchee; bon does not come into it.
    The French bon vivant is the usage for an epicure, a person who enjoys good food. Bonne vivante is not used.
  • Rendez-vous - merely means 'meeting' in French, but in English has taken on other overtones. On the one hand connotations such as secretiveness have crept into the English version. On the other hand the meaning includes a particular place where people of a certain type, such as tourists or people who originate from a certain locality, may meet.
    In recent years, however, both verb and noun have taken on the additional meaning of a location where two spacecraft are brought together for a limited period.


  • Geoff Parkes and Alan Cornell (1992), 'NTC's Dictionary of German False Cognates', National Textbook Company, NTC Publishing Group.

See also


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