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The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary web-site is currently featuring an article on “8 Truly Untranslatable German Words“.  We note the ugly and improper use of a numeral to begin the title of the article, but move quickly on to word No. 6, “Foosball“.

First, Foosball is not a German word.  It’s an English word, though probably first devised by Germans as a brand name, to be used in English-speaking countries, for their table-soccer game.  Second, as the article even acknowledges, Foosball—or, rather, the actual German word, Fußball—is eminently translatable.  In fact, Fußball is itself a direct translation of the English word, football.  See the Digitale Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (if you can read German).

Foosball appears to be an attempt to render the German word, Fußball, into English spelling.  (The vowel in German Fuß is similar to that in English “foot” or “puss”, not that in “fuss” or “bus”.)   It presumably was thought necessary because the German spelling contains ß (a letter representing a double-S, but unknown to most English-speakers, and liable to be mistaken for a B); or else to prevent the English pronunciation, “fuss ball”, using the existing English word, “fuss”, and perhaps suggesting fussbudget or some other association other than with association football.   Unfortunately (for whoever wanted to get English-speakers to use the German pronunciation), “Foosball” has almost universally been pronounced by English-speakers (at least in the United States) as “fooze-ball”.

Who writes these things?

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