Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The German word for 'secure'

... is siecher. Well, that's what an advertisement for Really Big Corporation says. The speaker, a woman in a serious business suit, goes on to talk about how she knows how to talk to clients in a whole bunch of languages about network security.

Actually, in Standard German siecher is a fairly obscure term. There's a pretty archaic word siech, meaning 'ill, infirm' which pops up often enough that folks know it, but siecher would be the comparative form ('more infirm') and that's hardly a common form. The word for 'secure' in German is sicher, pronounced with a lax vowel like in 'bit', not the tense vowel of 'beat'. The woman in the ad simply has an accent; she's pretty clearly a native speaker of a language that doesn't distinguish these kinds of vowels. (Some dialects of German would have this vowel here too ... a lot of the google hits ('g-hits') are in fact dialect texts, and a lot more a inflected forms of the adjective -- which would be impossible in the context of the sentence in the ad.)

The question is, why does a giant corporation spend gazillions on an ad campaign with such an obvious glitch when it's specifically aimed at an international audience and bragging about profiency in a range of languages. It seems all but impossible that they didn't know about this. Did they figure this was a charming accent? Or that this would make it stick in the mind of anybody who knows German?

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