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Sep 19, 2016
This week’s theme
Words borrowed from German

This week’s words
kitsch
verboten
ubermensch
gauleiter
clerisy

kitsch
Photo: dotpolka

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What does a pretzel have in common with a hamster? And a noodle with a poodle? All of them we’ve borrowed from German (from Brezel, Hamster, Pudel, and Nudel*).

All languages borrow from each other when they come in contact, but English and German are not just any languages. As they both descend from the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, they are particularly close. You could call them cousins.

So what’s a cup of sugar, a lawn mower, or a few thousand words between them? As it goes, we don’t return borrowed words, but we don’t hesitate to lend either. For example, we’ve given them Oldtimer (vintage car), Smoking (tuxedo), trampen (to hitchhike, from English tramp), and even Baby (baby). As you can see, sometimes things get a little twisted in the borrowing.

This week we’ll see five words that we’ve borrowed from German.

*All nouns are capitalized in German. It used to be the same in English too.

kitsch

PRONUNCIATION:
(kich)

MEANING:
noun: Art objects that are gaudy or overly sentimental, designed for popular appeal.
adjective: Tawdry, tacky, sentimental.

ETYMOLOGY:
From German Kitsch (kitsch). Earliest documented use: 1926.

NOTES:
What comes to mind when you think of kitsch? Here are some examples: a coffee mug in the shape of a pineapple, ceramic Santa Claus, plastic flamingos on a lawn, snow globes, popular religious iconography.

USAGE:
“I could see kitschy statues of androgynous male ‘saints’ and of angels with effeminate faces. Above this kitsch hung gaudy red and yellow ‘pavaljuni’.”
The Maltese Festa; The Malta Independent (Valletta); Sep 4, 2016.

See more usage examples of kitsch in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams. -Jeremy Irons, actor (b. 19 Sep 1948)

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