Onionfish: German as the official language of the USA?
The legend has persisted for 200 years: German lost by a hair to be the official language of the USA, when a bill was defeated by one vote. The man who cast the deciding vote for English is said to have been of German descent.
Governor Schwarzenegger: Oath of office in German?
Like the Loch Ness monster, the so-called Muehlenberg Legend also emerges every year, finding new supporters who contribute to its validity. (...) Who was this Muehlenberg and what did he have to do with the fact that the USA was almost a German-speaking country? Did it ever give credence to a vote for an official language? Or at least in individual states?
However, like all legends, this one has a core of truth to it: on January 9, 1794, a group of German immigrants from Virginia submitted a petition to the House of Representatives demanding that laws be translated into German. This would help immigrants who hadn't yet learned English to become acclimated faster in their new homeland, however the petition was voted down in the House of Representatives 42 to 41. The German-born, bilingual Speaker of the House, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muehlenberg, who himself abstained from the vote, declared afterwards "the faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be."
Among the German settlers, this led to the certain bitterness which provided fodder for this legend to grow into the celebrated folklore a generation later. In 1828, the legend evolved further, where a vote was cast in Pennsylvania whether German should be named as the second official language, and this proposal also lost by one vote. The crucial vote which prevented German as an official status was cast by State House Speaker Muehlenberg.
Regardless of the numerous German words which have penetrated American English, as well as the occasional new words like "Fahrvergnügen" and "Bremsstrahlung," the most well-known "Germish" vocabulary relates to German and Austrian specialities; the most macabre originated during WWII, and the most significant ideas came from the areas of dog breeding, philosophy and weapons technology. Here is a short selection:
|Deutsche Wörter in der englischen Sprache|
|Anschluss||Gesundheit! (nach Niesen)||panzer|
|autobahn||glitz, glitzy||pils, pilsner|
|beergarden||hamster||pretzel (von Brezel)|
|coffee-klatsch / klatch||howitzer (von Haubitze)||reinheitsgebot|
|das ist gut||kitsch||rucksack|
|delicatessen, deli||knackwurst||sauerkraut, sourkraut|
|diener, deaner||kraut (the krauts = die Deutschen)||schnapps|
|doberman pinscher||lager beer, lager||spritz, spritzer|
|Fest (z.B. beer fest)||lied||weltschmerz|
|gasthaus||nicht wahr?||zigzag (von Zickzack)|
Translation by courtesy of the Goethe-Institut, New York
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