gewöhnt vs. gewohnt

In English, if we say we are used to something, we mean we are accustomed to that thing and find it normal, e.g.:

I’m used to getting up early.

In German, there are two ways of saying used to: gewöhnt and gewohnt.

This post looks at how gewöhnt and gewohnt are used, the extent to which they may differ in meaning, and how this affects their English translation.

1. The English perspective

From an English translation perspective there is no difference in meaning between the following two German sentences:

Ich bin an das frühe Aufstehen gewöhnt.
Ich bin das frühe Aufstehen gewohnt.

They only differ in that gewöhnt requires a preposition (an) while gewohnt does not, but this makes no difference to the English translation, which in both cases is:

I’m used to getting up early.
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Ich bin so Fame!

When English words are adopted into German, they don’t always retain their original meaning. A well-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. The following tweet uses the word fame as an adjective, even though in standard English fame is a noun. (The adjective, of course, being famous.)

Loose translation:
Haha, I’m getting more faves out of you today because you think I’m famous.
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I’m through / Ich bin durch

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

I’m through
Ich bin (jetzt/schon) durch

I tend to think of English through and German durch as prepositions, but they can also be used as adverbs or even adjectives. In the above phrases, for instance, they are adjectives – synonymous with finished and fertig. The following two English examples are taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary1:

»  I’m not through yet. I have one more topic to discuss.
If you’re through using the phone, I’d like to use it next.  «

Growing up in the UK, I only ever heard this use of through on American TV and films, so I’ve always assumed it was an Americanism. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary describes this usage as ‘especially North American English’, while dict.cc has an entry for ‘Are you through with it?’ which it labels ‘[Am.] [coll.]’ (American colloquial).
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And I don’t know what all / Und was weiß ich nicht alles

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

…and I don’t know what all
…und was weiß ich nicht alles*

I first heard the above English phrase used by my American mother-in-law. I don’t recall the context, so here’s an example I found in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA):

»  Mr. Redmon had somebody come in from upstate New York and make him a tropical garden, had palm-trees and monkeys an’ I don’t know what all.  « 1

British English equivalents of this phrase might include: and God knows what (else), and whatever (else), and whatnot, and what have you, and (all) that sort of thing. But only the American English phrase contains every element of its German counterpart und was weiß ich nicht alles, albeit in a slightly different order. British writer CS Lewis comes close to using all those same elements in his 1954 novel The Horse and his Boy:

»  You talk very largely of nurture and I know not what.  « 2
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Can I get…? / Ich bekomme…

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

Can I get… (a coffee)?
Ich bekomme… (einen Kaffee)

When I returned to London for a year in 2001 to do my master’s degree, having been out of the UK for about five years, I was surprised to hear students ordering drinks and snacks from the canteen with the words can I get…? The phrase was instantly familiar from American TV and movies, but I’m pretty sure I’d never heard it used in British English by the time I left the UK in mid-1996. Prior to that, the usual way for British customers to ask for food and drink had been can/could I have…? I’ll have… or I’d like… . I’m clearly not the only one to have registered the change as ‘can I get a…’ topped a list of 50 ‘most noted’ Americanisms in a 2011 survey by the BBC.* The perceived Americanness of this phrase among Brits has also been written about by linguists (e.g. Lynne Murphy back in 2006).

Unlike its American English (AmE) counterpart, the German example above is phrased not as a question but as a statement: ich bekomme… . This literally means I’m getting (rather than can I get…?) and can be compared to the English request form I’ll have… . Although I might occasionally hear the question ‘kann ich einen Kaffee bekommen?’ (literally ‘can I get a coffee?’) the statement form is the one I usually hear in cafés, restaurants, etc. When I do hear bekommen in a question form in these contexts, it’s usually ‘was bekommen Sie?’ – a question directed at customers by serving staff. This literally means ‘what are you getting?’ but has the sense of ‘what would you like?’
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My eyes are yellow! / Meine Augen sind schon ganz gelb!

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

My eyes are yellow!
Meine Augen sind schon ganz gelb!

If you desperately need to urinate, you can express that urge in both American English (AmE) and German by joking that your ‘eyes are yellow’ – like the whites of your eyes have turned yellow as the urine level rises behind them, cartoon style. I had never heard that phrase in either English or German until I asked on Twitter whether any of my followers knew a German equivalent of the British English (BrE) idiom ‘to be busting for a slash’.

Here is my original German question followed by one of the replies (translations provided below):

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Sports fan / Sportsfreund

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

Sports fan
Sportsfreund

Apart from being used to describe people who are keen on sports, the above terms can be used in American English (AmE) and German as casual forms of address. The first time I heard sports fan used in this way was in the mid-1990s by an American colleague (from Buffalo, New York), who explained that in his experience it was used by an older man to a boy – perhaps like ‘lad’ or ‘my boy’ in British English. This explanation is supported by the following definition of sports fan in Urban Dictionary:

»  A nickname used by working class old timers in and around the Gulf Coast United States. Typically used in greeting towards a younger person. […] Ironically it has absolutely nothing to do with sports or sportsmanship.
Hey ‘Sportsfan’!
Hows it going ‘Sportsfan’?  «
[Contributed by Jonathan L. on 30/04/2013; No.2-ranked definition as of 26/11/2016.]

The German term Sportsfreund is similar to sports fan in that it, too, is considered a male form of address. Duden online defines it as follows:
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Ghost driver / Geisterfahrer

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

Ghost driver
Geisterfahrer

The German word Geisterfahrer is a colloquial term for Falschfahrer (literally ‘wrong-driver’). If you look up Falschfahrer on German Wikipedia and switch to English, you’ll find an entry on wrong-way driving, which is described as ‘the act of driving a motor vehicle against the direction of traffic’. Although I’ve often come across the term Geisterfahrer since living in Germany, I’d never once encountered the phrase wrong-way driving before researching for this post. This suggests that the phenomenon is not as commonly discussed in English as it is in German (for whatever reason).

The English term ghost driver is a loan translation of Geisterfahrer, and is usually found in texts discussing wrong-way driving in Germany. In such texts it often appears in quote marks or brackets alongside the original German term (e.g. here and here), the assumption being that the average anglophone reader won’t understand it without further explanation.
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Foosball / Tischfußball (Kicker)

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

Foosball (table football/soccer)
Tischfußball (Kicker)

Foosball, an American English term for table football, is different from other Germanisms in this series in that its German origin is fairly conspicuous. Even the Wikipedia article on table football begins as follows:

»  Table football, commonly called fuzboll or foosball (as in the German Fußball ‘football’) and sometimes table soccer…  «

Although Wikipedia points out that Fußball means football, it doesn’t mention the German word for table football: Tischfußball, which is commonly known in Germany as Kicker. This makes foosball (to denote table football) a kind of misnomer – a pseudo-Germanism, in much the same way that Handy (meaning mobile phone) is a pseudo-Anglicism in German.
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From your lips to God’s ears / Dein Wort in Gottes Ohr

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

From your [lips/mouth] to God’s [ear/s]
Dein Wort in Gottes Ohr (Your word in God’s ear)

This phrase expresses the hope that God will hear what someone has just said (something optimistic about the future) and grant that it may come true. A non-religious equivalent in English might be ‘Let’s hope you’re right!’ Language Log provides the following example of the American English (AmE) version:

»  I told him I thought [the movie Goldeneye] would take $30 million in its opening weekend, to which he replied: ‘From your lips to God’s ears.’ Evening Standard     (London) (4 October 1995.)* «

According to Language Log the expression may stem from Jewish religious texts and probably entered English via Yiddish. The same  post provides some original Yiddish examples, one attributed to Ben Sadock:
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