English is Handy

While many German people are excellent speakers of English, there seem to be some words that have gotten a little confused on their journey across the ocean/channel. These words, while English in origin, are used in entirely different ways in Germany, Austria, etc. than they are by native English speakers, which can make for interesting English conversations in German-speaking countries.

One such word is beamer. What could a beamer be, you ask? Well, it’s not a spaceship beaming you up to space, nor is it a classy BMW. A beamer, in the German-speaking world, is the “English” word for “projector.” It took a lot of convincing to get German-speaking friends to believe that beamer is not, in this sense, an actual English word.


Another example is mobbing, which somehow became the word that Germans think means “bullying.” Answering questions about the frequency of mobbing in American elementary schools was a little confusing for me the first few times.

Handy is the German “English” word for cell phone, although not for something being actually handy in the sense that English speakers would use it (that German word is praktisch). Perhaps the worst English misborrowing, however, is the use of the word body bag. German speakers may casually slip this phrase into conversation, stating, for example, that they bought a body bag yesterday. While this may leave English speakers staring open-mouthed at their German friend, in the German-speaking world, body bag simply means a type of purse.

Image Credit: brainknowsbetter.com

3 Responses

  1. Do you mean purse as in what we call a handbag in the UK or purse in the sense of something to put your money or small change in? Not just Germans who confuse words. Two nations divided by a single language and all that…….

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