Thursday, 10 June 2010

Stop making sense!

Not that long ago, a certain phrase became widespread in German-speaking countries, which seems to give a new answer to the old universal question. With it, the street language called "Denglish" celebrates unexpected triumphs. Grammatical nonsense suddenly "makes" sense.

"Everything used to be better in the past", older people say with pleasure. "In the past everything was worse", oppose others. However one thing is for sure: once, not everything was the same, and language used to sound differently. In the past they would say, for example: "Das ist sinnvoll (This is reasonable)". It seems that this expression has completely disappeared since. Nowadays one hears only "Das macht Sinn (This makes sense)", negative form being "Das macht keinen Sinn (This makes no sense)" or using "Kauderdeutsch": "Das macht nicht wirklich Sinn (This makes absolutely no sense)".

The origin of this linguistic mutation is again "Marlboro Country", the country, where supposedly everything is possible, as long as there are no power outages.
"That makes sense " may be absolutely correct in English, however "This makes sense" is anything but good German.
Back in the old days, someone mistranslated it into German, maybe it was even the same person, to whom we are grateful for the inexpressible "Frühstückszerealien" (breakfast cereals) and the backslapping expression "Er hat einen guten Job gemacht", which seems to have replaced the expression "Er hat seine Sache gut gemacht (He did a good job)", which was valid until now.
However the translator has invented a magnificent hit, that every record label would envy.
Ever since "macht Sinn" has been running on all TV channels, trumpeting from all radio stations, shining from the pages of hundreds of magazines, resounding from the street canyons of our zeitgeist mountain range and losing itself in the deepest depressions of our fun-oriented society.

There are so many people, who find the phrase "stylish", because it sounds "anyhow absolutely super duper fancy shmency". These people have lost their sense of language many years ago, in their babyhood, somewhere in shopping malls, and, in permanent state of overstress, they forget how to fetch it back again.
There are others, to whom the phrase comes almost by itself, because it sounds somewhat modern and casual at the same time: "Das macht Sinn" is perfect for hiding lack of personality and professional incompetence and to draw attention away from social injustice and misery.
They talk about making "sense", but they actually invent new one!
This is what big political speeches are made of, like: "Let's say, if this makes sense, I agree..."

Probably, in a couple of years everyone will have to look up "macht Sinn" in Duden volume 9 (Duden "Richtiges und gutes Deutsch" is the most valid German dictionary), because by that time the friends of false Anglicisms will have succeeded, аs well, as as they had with "realisieren" (realise) instead of good old German "verwirklichen"...
Where might we end up? Is it possible that Neo-German screenplays will sound something like this: "What? Your husband cheats on you with your best friend? I simply do not realise that! Nevertheless, this makes totally no sense!"

Most of those who use "makes sense" do not even realize that it is wrong and falsely assume it is correct German. After all, you can hear it on television every day... So, it should not surprise anyone if "macht Sinn" will come out from one's lips almost by itself. Obviously, it is so so nice and short, incisive and practical!

It doesn't matter if it is right or wrong; what "makes" difference if whether everyone understands it or not...

Translated and adapted by mieze.
From Bastian Sick "Der Dativ Ist dem Genitiv Sein Tod"

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