- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

OK, couch, cool, and party — good Germans should not utter such words according to a group of German academics who want to ban select American words from their native tongue and replace them with French equivalents.It is a show of solidarity with France, they say, and a demonstration against all things Yankee, including U.S. military action in Iraq.Armin Burkhardt, a German-language professor from Magdeburg University, is vexed by English words, which have percolated through his country since World War II ended, displacing many familiar German and French terms. Mr. Burkhardt organized “Language in Politics,” a four-member etymological policing group intent on purging English offenders.”D’accord” does not have the same easy-going cachet as “OK,” but Mr. Burkhardt is determined. On April 8, he issued a starter list of 33 words to avoid, complete with French replacements. He promises similar lists in the future.Mr. Burkhardt wants Germans to sit on a sofa, not a couch, at a fete, not a party, and be formidable, not cool.”Hitler lives,” commented culture analyst David Horowitz on Tuesday. “The Germans have a problem, but this is not going to help them very much. They have a huge guilt left over from World War II, and they’re trying to shift it onto America.”Mr. Horowitz, founder of the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture, was among those who called for a national boycott of “Old European” goods last month.”I’m sure you are as angry as I am at the reaction of these ‘allies’ to our call for enforcement of the United Nations resolution for Iraq to disarm,” he wrote at the time. “It appears that the French, Germans and Belgians have forgotten the blood Americans spilled to liberate them from the murderous Nazi regime.”The three countries also forgot America’s “economic burden” on their behalf after the war, and entanglements with the Soviet Union as well.Is the new German effort a viable one? Not likely, said Mr. Horowitz.”But we can just let them try,” he said.In his original treatise, organizer Mr. Burkhardt considers his word ban “a peaceful demonstration of French-German solidarity” and says America can no longer be a “guidance culture” because of its “immoral policy” in Iraq.”We aren’t trying to purify the language,” Mr. Burkhardt told Reuters last week. “We’re trying to send a political message.”It has nothing to do with a “language war,” he said, and was not meant to counter U.S. lawmakers who want “french fries” renamed “freedom fries.”The war itself has generated a few choice phrases, however. “Axis of weasels” and “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” got considerable mileage in recent American news accounts.”Effective at this very moment, the French are toast,” said Fox News’ Neil Cavuto.Some wish the hubbub would simply blow over, however.Business Week analyst John Rossantfind notes that 4.9 million Americans owe their jobs to such companies as Paris-based Groupe Danone, which makes Dannon Yogurt, and Germany’s Mercedes-Benz.”Boycotts can backfire,” he wrote last month, just as the name-calling reached a crescendo.”It’s high time for business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to cool the overheated rhetoric…. The U.S. already has a tool it can use to enforce embargoes — the Trading With the Enemy Act, first framed by the U.S. Congress in 1917, when the country was at war with Germany. It’s still on the books and has been a potent weapon against the old Soviet Union and others. Let’s continue to use it — but only on our real foes.”

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