Lübke English

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The term Lübke English (or, in German, Lübke-Englisch) refers to nonsensical English created by literal word-by-word translation of German phrases, disregarding differences between the languages in syntax and meaning.[1]

Lübke English is named after Heinrich Lübke, a president of Germany in the 1960s, whose limited English[2] made him a target of German humorists. For example, it was alleged that Lübke said to Queen Elizabeth II when they were waiting for a horse race to start:

  • Lübke's statement: "Equal goes it loose."
  • The sentence Lübke had in mind: "Gleich geht es los."
  • Meaning of the statement: "It'll start very soon."

In 2006, the German magazine konkret unveiled that most of the statements ascribed to Lübke have been coined inside the editorship of Der Spiegel, mainly by staff writer Ernst Goyke.[3]

In the 1980s, comedian Otto Waalkes had a routine called "English for Runaways", which is a nonsensical literal translation of Englisch für Fortgeschrittene (actually an idiom for 'English for advanced speakers' in German). In this mock "course", he translates every sentence back or forth between English and German at least once (usually from German literally into English). Though there are also other, more complex language puns, the title of this routine has gradually replaced the term Lübke English when a German speaker wants to point out naive literal translations.


  1. ^ Hellmuth Karasek (2006-01-16). "Learnen von Lübke". Hamburger Abendblatt. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  2. ^ Christoph Winder (2006-09-26). "What shalls". derStandard.at. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  3. ^ konkret 3/2006, S. 74: „In Wahrheit ist das angebliche Lübke-Zitat ‚Equal goes it loose‘ […] eine Erfindung des Bonner Spiegel-Korrespondenten Ernst Goyke, genannt Ego […] Auch alle anderen Beiträge zum »Lübke-Englisch« haben in der Woche nach Egos Story Redakteure des Spiegel unter falschen Absendern für die Leserbrief-Seiten des Magazins verfasst.“