Renewable energy and bad compound nouns

Translating a text on renewable energy today I stumbled across the phrase “erneuerbare Energietechnologien,” a German term that has gained broad usage and which appears to be a direct translation of “renewable energy technologies.” It occurred to me, however, that the German version is actually quite strange, as it involves the formation of a compound noun between “energy” and “technologies.” The adjective “renewable” thus refers to the “technology.” Yet this is all wrong. The “technology” itself is not renewable, the “energy” is. In English, of course, “renewable energy” in this context is a compound modifier, and it could be hyphenated as “renewable-energy technologies.” We are talking about technologies that involve “renewable energy,” not “renewable technologies” that involve energy, as the German word formation implies.

For me, this is just another example of how creeping Anglicisms are destroying German. Wehrt Euch!

One thought on “Renewable energy and bad compound nouns”

  1. Such misreference in German compound nouns is quite common and existed well before the emergence of Denglish.


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