Tag Archives: advertising

Sehen Sie Meer und See Mehr

Noch eine Werbung mit einem Homofon

Fliegen Sie Meer

Fliegen Sie Meer

Man kann der Ton /e:/ mit »eh« oder »ee« buchstabieren. Auf Englisch sagen wir vielleicht See more of the world.


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Frightfully funny?

Today I saw an ad for Subway’s flatbread sandwiches which reads:

Einflach LeckerProbier jetzt dein Lieblings-Sub als frisch belegtes Flatbread
Delicious! Now try your favorite sub as a freshly topped flatbread”

Einflach Lecker - Subway

Einflach Lecker – Subway

The asterisks designate the fact that einflach is not a real German word, it is a play on two of them: einfach and flach, “simply” and “flat.” A parallel construction in English would be something like “Shrimply Delicious” – a play on “simply” and “shrimp.”

It is simply wonderful to know enough German to appreciate words at play and reminds me of a joke (which I told at a Halloween party) that relies on you knowing the grammatical cases German uses:

»Weißt du, wie die drei Geschwister des Werewolfs heißen?«
»Nein, wie denn?«
»Da wärst du nie drauf gekommen: Sie heißen Weswolf, Wemwolf und Wenwolf…«

“Do you know the names of the Werewolf’s three siblings?”
“No, what are they?”
“Your never gonna guess! They are called Genitive-Who Wolf, Dative-Who Wolf and Accusative-Who Wolf…”

For this to even get off the ground, you need to know that wer is the German word for “who” in the nominative case, and that it is inflected in the other three cases to become weswem and wen. You also know from the order in which the names are given – nominative, genitive, dative, accusative – that this joke is not brand new as the cases are now more commonly ordered nominative, accusative, dative and genitive, perhaps reflecting the increasingly rare use of the genitive forms.

I hope this makes the case, once again, for German humor making ample use of wordplay.

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Where there’s a will, there’s a way

One phrase that I am getting a lot of practice on at the moment is ich will – “I want” – as there are two advertising campaigns that use it. The first, which I noticed in a few places before I left for my trip to the US, concerns preventing the spread of STIs and AIDS. For example, these phrases appear on billboards and hoardings:

Ich will’s wild
Ich will’s ehrlich
Ich will’s unartig
Ich will’s gemütlich
Ich will’s reif
Ich will’s ernsthaft

Each item following the ich will shares how the person pictured is supposed to “want it” – “wild,” “straightforward,” “naughty,” untranslatable but perhaps “warm and cozy” or even “unhurried,” “adult/mature” (or more literally “ripe”), and “genuine” or “wholehearted.” The posters follow this up with the advice mach’s! aber mach’s mit! – “do it! but do it with [a condom]!” To which I follow up, “use ich will but protect yourself against using it to mean ‘I will’!”

The other set of adverts features young people and their career aspirations. The campaign is called Rock Your Life and, yes, I italicized it because the name of the campaign here in Germany is that English phrase. What is particularly lovely about this campaign, beyond teaching me some new German cultural icons, is that it couples ich will – a form of wollen “to want” – with the verb which it can so easily be confused by English speakers, werden – “to become” in the context of this campaign but also with the meaning “will” when used as an auxiliary verb.

For example, we see a young woman with the caption Ich will Judith Rakers werden – “I want to become Judith Rakers [a journalist and tv talking head]” – and in this one brief sentence can be reminded that werden is doing the work of “will” and will is doing the work of “want.” It’s visual, it’s catchy, it’s everywhere at the moment and I hope that German language learners out there come to love this campaign for being a special sort of grammar lesson! I don’t think I’d mind becoming Ms Rakers either…

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