What’s with…? / Was ist mit…?

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

What’s with…?
Was ist mit…?

This phrase is complicated to deal with because it has two meanings in both American English (AmE) and German, as illustrated in the table below. Both of the AmE examples are taken from the Dictionary of American Slang,1 which dates what’s with…? to the ‘late 1930s+’ and attributes it to the Yiddish phrase vos iz mit…? The German examples in the table are my own, as are their English translations.

whats-with-table-screenshot-paint3

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Come on already! / Komm schon!

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

Come on already!
Komm schon!

In English, already is used to express something that happened before now or earlier than expected. In German, schon is used the same way – as an adverb. But it can also be used as a modal particle, adding various shades of meaning to a sentence depending on the context and speaker’s attitude. In the German example above, schon adds emphasis to a command, suggesting impatience on the part of the speaker. The fact that American English can use already in exactly the same way is usually attributed to the influence of the Yiddish word shoyn (see here, here, and here) rather than that of German schon (see here), although the principle is the same, Yiddish being closely related to German.

British English, on the other hand, has to rely on intonation (‘Come ON!’) or question tags (‘Come on, will you?!’) etc. to convey a similar sense of urgency.

Noodles / Nudeln

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

Noodles
Nudeln

Both the American English and German terms above refer not only to what British English thinks of as noodles (i.e. the type used in Asian cuisine), but also to some types of what British English would call pasta. Lynne Murphy has a detailed blog post on the ‘pasta/noodle distinction,’ in which she mentions the German origin of the word noodle and the significance of this in the American context:

» …I suspect that my default understanding of the word noodle may be more common in the parts of the US that had more northern-European settlement. (…The word noodle comes from German Nudel…) «

Do you want to come with? / Willst du mitkommen?

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

Do you want to come with?
Willst du mitkommen?

Some regional varieties of American English treat come and with as two elements of one compound verb, which is exactly how German treats kommen and mit in the verb mitkommen. Standard English, however, treats come as a simple verb and with as a preposition, which must be followed by an object, as in ‘do you want to come with us?’

The verb come with has its own entry in Wiktionary, where it is described as:

» American English. From a substrate of several Germanic immigrant languages that feature the same construction. «

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Germanisms in American English

Abbreviations: AmE = American English; BrE = British English

Being a Brit married to an American and living in Germany puts me in a good position to compare British and American English with German. And over the years I’ve been struck by the number of American English expressions that have close equivalents in German, but are not typically associated with British English. For example:

AmE:        Can I get a coffee?
German:  Ich bekomme einen Kaffee (bekommen = to get)

In British English it’s more traditional to order a coffee (or other food and drink) using phrases like can I have…? or I’ll have. Admittedly, can I get…? now seems well established in BrE, too, but I can remember a time when that usage was only familiar from American TV and films. The same applies to some of the other expressions on my list below.
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The verb ‘to be’ or not the verb ‘to be’?

Have you ever noticed how many verbs there are in German that mean to be? Apart from the verb sein (which literally means to be) there are plenty of other verbs that can be translated as to be in certain contexts. I’ve listed ten of them below, illustrating their use with authentic examples. Note that in each case, no matter how specialised or formal the German verb might seem at first glance, its most idiomatic English translation is simply to be:

1    bestehen

Es besteht kein S-Bahnverkehr zwischen Köpenick und Karlshorst.

There is no S-Bahn service between Köpenick and Karlshorst.

Another good example of when this verb means to be is the phrase ‘Besteht die Möglichkeit…?’ meaning ‘Is it possible…?’ or ‘Is there any chance…?’
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