Lady Fitness and Mrs.Sporty: The Denglish world of exercise


The proliferation of English words in German, which got some attention from The Economist this week, is nowhere more rampant than in the realm of fitness and wellness (known in German as die Fitness and die Wellness). It took me years to find a yoga studio where the instructors speak in ordinary German rather than a highly distracting stream of  sentences like “im downward Hund geht es darum, zu relaxen und gleichzeitig zu stretchen, immer in the moment zu sein.”

I’ve never belonged to a gym in Berlin – in a place where sunlight is so scarce, I prefer to just go running outside so that I can combine exercise with Vitamin D absorption. But a few weeks ago a stretch of weather too hot to run outside had me contemplating das Fitnessstudio. Also, my neighborhood women’s gym was offering discounts during Ramadan, pictured above (the staff said non-Muslim ladies could also take advantage). An attempt to compare their (totally non-transparent) pricing scheme with competitors led me to the ultradenglish realm of Berlin-area women’s gym names. Here’s a sampling:

Lady Fitness


Womenclub Frauenfitness

Frauenfitness Ladyline

Jonny M. Women


I guess the word “lady” is generally used more in global English than in native speaker English – I heard it a lot in Southeast Asia (where I was also frequently addressed as “sir”, but I digress) – but these gyms sure do lay the “lady” on thick. Is Lady Fitness the Dowager Countess of Fitnessshire? Did LadyCompany make an advantageous marriage to LordCompany? Jonny M. Women sounds like a pretty sketchy dude. Silliest of all is Mrs.Sporty, which besides its odd punctuation seems to arise from the common German-to-English translation error of assuming Mrs. = Frau. Is it just me or does Mrs. Sporty evoke the image more of Mr. Sporty’s frazzled wife than of a woman who is herself sporty? Also, a lot of the names are very Ladywomenfrauensportysport – among other things, Denglish tends to lead to very repetitive slogans and names.

Also: if your ladygym is going to run a Ramadan special, you should probably consider staying open late during Ramadan so that the ladies have have time to exercise after the iftar.

The gated communities of Istanbul

I have learned the following things from an Oct. 7 Spiegel Online article by Kristina Karasu and the interesting reader comments in response to it:

– Istanbul is in the throes of a building boom. What many prosperous Turks want to buy, and what is thus being built for them in ever larger numbers, are apartments in high-rises in high-security gated communities 20km from the city center, many of them encircled by poor neighborhoods. Continue reading

Auf Messers Schneide: the circumcision debate and the good intentions fallacy

This is an interesting time for Muslim-Jewish relations in Berlin: while the current circumcision debate would seem to provide good cause for alliance between Germany’s two highest-profile religious minorities, it comes amidst heightened tensions between the two communities after an attack on a Berlin rabbi by Arab youths.  So this morning when I headed to Bebelplatz for the “Auf Messers Schneide” demonstration, which had billed itself as an interfaith protest against restrictions on the right to religious circumcision, I was curious about what exactly an interfaith event might look like in this context. The long list of event sponsors included Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant organizations, as well as secular organizations representing immigrant groups. I arrived to find that the number of sponsoring organizations plus the number of reporters and police officers there probably exceeded the number of actual demonstrators on Bebelplatz. Altogether there were a few hundred people, though it was hard to tell who was and wasn’t there for the demonstration, since the book-burning memorial on Bebelplatz is a big tourist attraction and it was a nice Sunday in early September, so quite a few curious or confused tourists were milling around as well. Continue reading