I was reading a graphic novel set during WWII, and while speaking English to some Americans, one of the German characters used the word "Hors D'Oeuvre". I've done some etymology research but haven't really found anything conclusive about when it would have entered common usage in German, much less for usage in a second language.

Is this realistic? Are loan words commonly taught when learning a second language?

  • I don't know what you mean by "is this realistic", but my guess is that the word "Hors d’œuvre" will only be understood by Germans which come into contact or are interested in "haute cuisine". IMO this word is also special in a sense, as the language of restaurants/cooking is based on french loanwords, so this is more an example of a technical term.
    – 0x6d64
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 16:16
  • I suppose you doubt the realism of your graphic novel, i.e. "is it realistic for a German in the early 40s to know this term". I'd say probably yes. I also agree with 0x6d64 that it's a technical term rather than a loan word. But I think most people will understand it as "small, bite-sized, fancy tidbit", not "appetizer in general". Without knowing what the actual scene looks like, I think it's possible that the author of your graphic novel might have wanted to convey a sense of decadence, rather than historical accuracy... :)
    – Mac
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 16:35
  • 2
    The Ngram Viewer rocks! Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 18:09
  • The Ngram Viewer is a Überrock - as we see, since the time of the Reunion, the usage of Vorspeisen is exploding. Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 23:57
  • 1
    @HendrikVogt, Takkat, userunknown: The nagram viewer is case sensitive. You folks did not include the lowercase version of "Hors d' oeuvre" which is about equally prevalent as the capitalized version (with a change from lowercase to uppercase over time). In this case the numbers are seemingly derived from a small number of books, so I'm not too comfortable to make an assertion about the development over time. However, I can imagine that this development hints to a change how the word was perceived.
    – 0x6d64
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


The word is French and French is still considered the language of good cuisine for many Germans. I'm also positive that during my grandfather's time French was indeed a language used by educated people - just like English, Latin and Old Greek.

As for the "when", I do not know. I can only tell that its use is not unrealistic.

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