Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 23, 2021

Stielvoll und Ideenreich

Deutsche Geschäftsschilder entschlüsseln

Understanding humorous shop signs in German
Werner Schäfer
From the journal Lebende Sprachen


This article deals with a linguistic phenomenon of increasing presence in everyday life which has found little attention in linguistic studies: humorous shop signs in German, shop signs involving word play. This article locates such shop signs within the study of linguistic landscapes, to which they belong but in which they have so far played no more than a minor role, the academic discussion of linguistic landscapes generally focussing on the function of linguistic phenomena in everyday life, above all the function of different languages in bilingual contexts. This article, in contrast, besides the function, examines the specific linguistic form of such shop signs, the syntactic, morphological and lexical particularities of German which allow such wordplay. The article closes with some didactic considerations regarding the exploitation of such shop signs in language tuition.


Bryson, Bill: Mother Tongue. London: Penguin, 1990.Search in Google Scholar

Burridge, Kate: Blooming English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.Search in Google Scholar

Cook, Vivian: The English Writing System. London: Arnold, 2004.Search in Google Scholar

Cook, Vivian: “The language of the street”. Applied Linguistics Review 4/2013: 43–81.10.1515/applirev-2013-0003Search in Google Scholar

Coulmas, Florian: “Linguistic landscaping and the seed of the public sphere”. Shohamy, Elena & Gorter, Durk (ed.): Linguistic Landscape. Expanding the Scenery. New York: Routledge, 2009.Search in Google Scholar

Crystal, David: Language Play. London: Penguin, 1998.Search in Google Scholar

Garrett, Peter: Attitudes to Language. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 2010.Search in Google Scholar

Jaworsky, Adam / Thurlow, Crispin: “Tracing Space, locating self. Embodiment of remediation in/of tourist spaces”. Visual Communication 3/2011: 349–366.10.1177/1470357211408818Search in Google Scholar

Landry, Rodrigue / Bourhis, Richard Y.: “Linguistic landscape and ethnolinguistic vitality”. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 1/1997: 23–49.10.1177/0261927X970161002Search in Google Scholar

Maule, David: “Sign language”. Modern English Teacher 4/1992: 15–16.Search in Google Scholar

McMahon, April: An Introduction to English Phonology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002.Search in Google Scholar

Myers, Gregg: “Language in advertisements”. Culpeper, Jonathan & Katamba, Francis, et. al. (eds): English Language. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009: 454–463.Search in Google Scholar

Schäfer, Werner: “Spot the problem!” Übersetzen beginnt vor dem Übersetzen. Lebende Sprachen 4/2002: 153–156.10.1515/les.2002.47.4.153Search in Google Scholar

Schäfer, Werner: "'The Queen of Tarts'. Shop signs entschlüsseln". Praxis Fremdsprachenunterricht 5/2014: 8–12.Search in Google Scholar

Swillingham, Guy: Shop Horror. The Best of the Worst in British Shop Names. London: Fourth State, 2005.Search in Google Scholar

Tin, Tan Bee: “Towards creativity in ELT: the need to say something new”. ELT Journal 4/2013: 385–397.10.1093/elt/cct022Search in Google Scholar

Toolan, Michael: “Joke shop names”. Journal of Literary Semantics 2/2005: 165–179.10.1515/jlse.2005.34.2.165Search in Google Scholar

Online erschienen: 2021-04-23
Erschienen im Druck: 2021-04-09

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow