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Verbalhornung describes a phenomenon within morphological linguistics , namely the intentional or unconscious formation of known or unknown words and idioms. The linguistic horizon of the “spoiled” individual often plays a role. The Duden gives verballhornen the meaning "(a word, a name, a phrase, etc.) to distort". This is also done for parodic purposes.

Concept history

The etymologist Pfeifer sees the verb verballhornen for “distorting a text, a linguistic utterance” (with the intention of improving something supposedly wrong) in literary language since the 18th century, cf. about Verjohannballhornung in the second half of the 18th century, corruption (19th c.), ballhornisieren (early 19th c.). The designation Verballhornung is said to go back to the Lübeck printer Johann Balhorn the Younger († 1603), "in which in 1586 an incorrectly edited edition of the Luebian law appeared by an unknown person ". According to tradition, he is said to have revised an older edition, which then contained more errors than before, which is why verballhornen (more rarely: ballhornisieren ) originally meant "to improve worse". This was particularly embarrassing because other cities also judged according to Lübeck city law.

For example, Herder's Conversations-Lexikon wrote in 1854:

“Ballhorn, Joh., Printer in Lübeck at the end of the 16th century, published an abc primer in which he had removed the spores from the old cocks in the primers and added 2 eggs on a woodcut; underneath he put: Improved by Joh. B. Of this, a book is called ballhornen (ballhornisiren) as much as worsening the same by improperly improving it. "

- Herder's Conversations Lexicon. Freiburg im Breisgau 1854, Volume 1, p. 392.

The first to mention Johan Balhorn , "the buchtrucker at Soost in Westphalia, who published the abcbuch in an increased and improved way", was the writer Johann Balthasar Schupp , as stated in the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm .

Meyer's Großes Konversations-Lexikon 1905 on the other hand:

“Balhorn (not Ballhorn), Johann, printer in Lübeck 1530–1603. The word verballhorn or ballhornisieren, derived from his name, has not yet been convincingly explained. Most likely it arose from Balhorn's edition of the Lübeckische Statuta (1586), because of the improvements made in it, which were generally condemned, and because B., who had only printed the book, was named only on the title page. Another explanation derives the word from the fact that [...] B. placed a few eggs under the usual image of the rooster in a primer, but the justification of this story has not been proven. Cf. Kopp in the »Journal for Book Friends«, 1902. "

- Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Volume 2. Leipzig 1905, pp. 301-302.
Title page of Lübeck's city law from 1586

The folklorist Lutz Röhrich now assumes that the changes that distort the meaning were not edited by Balhorn himself, but by two lawyers from the city council, who made mistakes and misunderstandings when translating from Low German into High German . On the title page of the work, however, only the name of the printer is written as "Auffs Newe vbersehen / Corrigiret / and brought from old Sechsischer Sprach in Hochteudsch. Printed in Lübeck / by Johan Balhorn ”, so that the phrase“ improved by Balhorn ”soon became established. Such a phrase is already abundantly documented in the 17th century, to be found for the first time in the correspondence between two Swedish envoys at the Westphalian Peace Congress from the beginning of 1644 as "myket blifwa förbättrade by Balhorn". The phrase can be found in printed literature from Johann Peter de Memel in Funny Society (Lübeck 1656). According to another variant, Johann Bal (l) horn printed an edition of Johannes Rivius ' Latin grammar, which was widely used as a school book, in 1571 , in which he made unauthorized additions, and thus contributed to the formation of the term. Röhrich ends his article by stating that Balhorn as a printer cannot be reproached; Rather, he "got the bad reputation that still clings to him now [...] completely wrongly".

Examples of corruptions

  • Arquebuse is derived from the French name arquebuse, a corruption of the German word hook box
  • The word Beelzebub fell victim to corruption even before it was introduced into German ; the Ugaritic ba'al zebul = august master was in Hebrew to ba'al zevuv = Lord of the Flies
  • Hocus pocus : hoc est [enim] corpus = that is my body in the Latin mass
  • Ratzefummel for eraser
  • The phrase under all cannon is a corruption of the Latin sub omni canone and actually means below or outside the measuring scale .
  • The US company Fannie Mae was actually founded as the Federal National Mortgage Association, FNMA. For the sake of simplicity, “Fannie Mae”, derived from the abbreviation FNMA, was adopted as the name during the privatization.
  • The Ballermann 6 is a beach bar on the Platja de Palma on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca. The name is the corruption of the name "Balneario Nº 6" (Spanish for "therapeutic bath")
  • The Montscheinspitze (2106 m) in the Karwendel Mountains is often called "Mondscheinspitze" in literature or in hiking guides, although this mountain name has nothing to do with the moon, but comes from "monticinu - small mountain pasture".
  • The Knoff Hoff Show corrupted the word know-how as "quasi-Germanization".

“Our compatriot Joseph Pulitzer, the editor of the New Yorker World , a large daily journal which even makes a dubious competition to the Herald and which is printed in a daily circulation of 200,000 copies, recently gave a speech in German in which he also quoted Goethe . The next day this speech appeared in his sheet, and the verses of our poet
hero were corrupted by the English composer in the following way: Who never ate his bread with tears,
Who never the friendly nights
On his bedde vienand sazz Do
n't comb your hair , you heavenly ones Maids. "

- Report in the Österreichische Buchdrucker-Zeitung of November 5, 1885

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Verballhornung  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden. The German spelling. 25th, completely revised and expanded edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-411-04015-5 , keyword “verballhornen”.
  2. ^ Verballhornen in, accessed on November 13, 2013
  3. Belén Santana López: How is the comic translated? , Frank & Timme 2006, p. 254, online in Google Books
  4. ^ Etymological dictionary according to Pfeifer, online at DWDS , accessed on November 14, 2013
  5. online at , accessed on November 14, 2013
  6. ^ German Dictionary Volume 25, Column 90 sv VERBALLHORNEN
  7. online at, accessed on November 14, 2013
  8. Lutz Röhrich : Lexicon of the proverbial sayings. Volume 1. Herder, Freiburg a. a. 1994, ISBN 3-451-04400-5 , keyword “Ballhorn, Balhorn”.
  9. Small communications . In: Österreichische Buchdrucker-Zeitung . No. 45 . Vienna November 5, 1885, p. 445 ( ANNO - AustriaN Newspapers Online [accessed May 27, 2020]).