Ich bin so Fame!

When English words are adopted into German, they don’t always retain their original meaning. Perhaps the best-known example of this is the word handy, which means ‘useful’ or ‘convenient’ in English, but has come to mean ‘mobile phone’ in German. In this case, the word has gone from being an adjective in English to a noun in German.

Conversely, words which are nouns in English may come to be used as adjectives in German. In the following tweet, the English noun fame is used as an adjective, even though in standard English the adjective is ‘famous’.

Loose translation:
Haha, I’m getting more faves than usual today because you think I’m famous.

The screenshot below shows some more German tweets using fame to mean ‘famous’. They are a random sample found on Twitter using the search terms ‘fame geworden’ (meaning ‘become famous’).


I won’t translate the above tweets, but note that in several of them the word Fame is capitalised, as all nouns in German should be – even foreign ones. This suggests that the tweeters are well aware that fame is a noun in English but are using it as an adjective nevertheless. (This grammatical awareness is also in evidence in discussion forums, here and here.)

Moreover, fame is not used exclusively as an adjective in German, but can also be used as a noun – as demonstrated, once again, by @limonenbiss:

Loose translation:
And people will say I’m trying to cash in on my incredible [Twitter] fame.

I don’t know whether this use of English nouns as adjectives is part of a broader trend, but I did once see the word gore – rather than gory – used as an adjective in German. (Sadly, I can no longer find the tweet in question, so you’ll have to take my word for it.)

It could be that this flexible use of fame in German is possible because it has not (yet) achieved the mainstream status of more established Anglicisms like Handy, which has long since been in the authoritative Duden dictionary. Fame may or may not go on to get the Duden seal of approval, but if it does, it will be interesting to see if it retains its dual use as a noun and an adjective, or whether it becomes fixed as one or the other.

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