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In a post on another SE site, it was claimed:

As apposed to other countries (where only the aristocrats spoke French), in Prussia it was spoken by part of the population in everyday life.

The Berlin dialect today is still strongly influenced by French.

Is this accurate: Is modern Berlin German strongly influenced by French (compared to Standard German)?

How many words borrowed from French are in Berlin German and not Standard German?

Can you give examples?

(I'm also not sure I understand the connection betwen East Prussia and Berlin when it comes to French influence)

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  • It's not in the English Wikipedia, but it's covered in the German one, although with a somewhat different explanation.
    – RDBury
    Nov 3 '20 at 7:41
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    (Aiming-for-upperclass) Swabians in my childhood days walked on the Trottoir (spoken “Trottwar”), hung a lamp on the Plafond (“Plaffo”), and rented out the Souterrain (“Suttrai”) flat. Some elderly ladies still do. ‘Nuff said.
    – Stephie
    Nov 3 '20 at 9:42
  • The same happened in Viennese. Stephie's examples are all rather normal words there (maybe elaborate, but well known). Nov 3 '20 at 13:13
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    "The Berlin dialect today is still strongly influenced by French." scheint mir doch eine starke Übertreibung zu sein.
    – Roland
    Nov 3 '20 at 15:10
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    The referrred answers simply boils down to influence of the Huguenots, which is only weakly correlated with Berlin, as can be seen in Wikipedia here, and the number of people involved puts some doubts on a major impact in respect to language.
    – guidot
    Nov 3 '20 at 15:22
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No. Much more "strongly influenced" than other German dialects it is not. Slightly more it is.

All German dialects and standard German are heavily influenced by French.

The amount of distinctly really French origin words and expressions specifically and uniquely Berlinerisch seems rather small.

French speaking aristocracy of old, some immigrants and Napoleon's troops left almost zero influence on grammar.

French loanwords and just French-sounding imports or gallicised neologisms like Friseur, Polier are very widespread.

WP: Gallizismus, WP: Liste von Gallizismen, WP: Scheingallizismus

And French influence on Berlin dialect is as much overhyped as Berlin itself. Most info on that topic found on the net seems to be of unsourced copypasta type and used as promotional assertion for tourism appeal. Most things listed 'typical (French) Berlinerisch' seem to be either not typical for Berlin in the sense of 'unique to that regiolect' or even not of French origin at all.

Das Deutsche wird ja im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert geradezu überschüttet mit französischen Wörtern und Wendungen, ganz ähnlich wie durch das Englische heute und auch aus ganz ähnlichen Gründen: Der Verwender entschließt sich für eine Prestigeform. Französische Elemente finden sich deshalb auch in vielen anderen deutschen Dialekten (wenn nicht überhaupt in allen): Französische Eleganz, französische (darunter hugenottische) Emigration und französische Besetzung prägen nicht nur das Berlinische.

In diesem Licht sehen manche Erscheinungen wohl typischer aus, als sie es über lange Zeiträume betrachtet tatsächlich sind.

Im Übrigen ist der beobachtbare etymologische Enthusiasmus hier oft übertrieben: Nicht alles, was wie ein französisches oder jiddisches Wort aussieht, ist auch eines. So haben Fisimatenten (leider) wohl nichts mit einem Visitez ma tente! bzw. J’ai visité ma tante der französischen Soldaten während der napoleonischen Besatzung zu tun (Harndt 2007: 39 f.), sondern vielmehr mit lateinischen Vorläufern bereits im 16. Jahrhundert, und doof stammt auch nicht von dow, dem hebräischen »Bären« (so Nachama 2007: 44), sondern ist das »taub« des Niederdeutschen[…]
— Michael Solf: "Akkudativ und Zislaweng. Zur Her- und Zukunft des Berlinischen", in: Constanze Fröhlich, Martin Grötschel, Wolfgang Klein (Hg.): "Abecedarium der Sprache", Kulturverlag Kadmos: Berlin, 2019. p19–26 (chapter PDF)

One example for this often overly enthusiastic folk etymology is mausetot sometimes listed as being of French origin and a 'typical Berlin' creation:

mausetot (frz. mort aussitôt)
Berliner Sprachgebrauch, userpage at Freie Universität Berlin

While it really is:

völlig tot. Leitet sich nicht aus dem Frz. `mot aussi tôt bzw. mort si tôt = sogleich tot) ab, sondern aus dem Nd. mu(r)sdod.
https://www.enzyklo.de/Lokal/40186

A supposedly very francophile and hugenot-derived Theodor Fontane is reported to have used typical Berolinisms a lot. Although research on that has come to the conclusion that it was often 'fake', examples from his writings are still used as evidence for French dominant influence in Berlinisch, while the example list given is actually rarely listing anything French:

The German word mutterseelenallein – 'mutterwindallein' – is often said to be derived from moi tout seul – „ich ganz allein“, brought along with Hugenots. While we read in research papers 'a Germanic origin based on metaphors from the bible that then got into French'. As it's predecessors are already found in Luther's writings, a French Hugenot origin seems implausible (wiktionary).

A similar case is then 'Grieben', folk-etymilogically explained as coming from French gribelettes, while it's origin is really unknown.

In this medium length list of (sometimes just allegedly French origin) Berolinisms in Fontane we see only two 'valid' examples, immortellig and stellage. The first a French main word with a German ending and the second a German word with an added French-sounding ending.

For a long list of this sometimes very questionable quality 'theory of French origin':

— Hans Meyer: "Der Richtige Berliner in Wörtern und Redensarten" (Professor am grauen Kloster), H. S. Hermann: Berlin, 61904. (PDF)

A better approach to the historical development:
— Joachim Schildt & Hartmut Schmidt: "Berlinisch – Geschichtliche Einführung in die Sprache einer Stadt", Akademie Verlag: Berlin, 1986.

And a recent work listing indeed some unique Berlin regionalisms:

Zweemal bin ick mit se ums Karree (carré) jelofen, da hatte ick de Neese pleng (nez, plein=voll).

Sei nicht so etepete (être peut-être = im Zweifel sein) und knall ihm mit Forsche (force=Kraft) eene vor’n Deez (tête=Kopf).

Et is een wahret Jlück, det bei det Unjlück jlücklicherweise keen Maller (malheur) passiert.

— Ewald Harndt: "Französisch im Berliner Jargon", Berlin 2005. (Examples here also chosen as 'typical for that book and Berlinerisch' on a language blog)

To which it needs to be added that 'pleng' is the unique example here.

'Nees' is also low-German standard, as are Döz, forsch are not unique to Berlin, although how 'forsche' is used here seems to be less common outside of Berlin. 'Karre' is found in all of Germany as is Malheur (the variation of 'Maller' may then be counted as unique again?)

And 'etepetete':

etepetete Adj. ‘zimperlich, auf Wohlanständigkeit bedacht, von übertriebener Ordnungsliebe’; vorwiegend in prädikativer und adverbialer Verwendung. Das zuerst für das Ende des 18. Jhs. nachzuweisende, besonders der nordd. Umgangssprache angehörende Adjektiv ist wohl entgegen anderen Erklärungsversuchen (z. B. Zurückführung auf frz. être ‘sein’, peut-être ‘vielleicht’) zu nd. ȫt(e), entrundet ēte ‘geziert, zimperlich, überfein’ zu stellen; ötepetöte, etepetete, auch in volkstümlichen Kinderversen als sinnentleerte Lautkombination vorkommend, kann dann als ironisch-spielerische Verdopplung gelten. Nd. ȫt(e) (Stimmlosigkeit des Dentals durch hyperkorrekte oder emphatische Aussprache?) entspricht hd. ↗öde (s. d.), das seit dem Mhd. abschätzig (‘widerwärtig, dumm, töricht’) für Personen und deren Verhalten gebraucht werden kann.

In summary it seems that the German dialect from Berlin is not that much more retaining gallicisms compared to either Swiss German, Austrian German, or those dialects that are closer to actual French border. But curiously a recent sample of quantitative analysis of newspaper texts shows that Rhineland standard German uses more gallicisms than Saarland, which is even topped by gallicisms in a Saxon newspaper.
— Stefanie Reckenthäler: "Über die Verbreitung von Gallizismen in der öffentlichen Gebrauchssprache. Eine korpuslinguistische Analyse" (PDF)

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    Wrt gallicisms that appear also in other German regions/dialects: Portmonee/Portemonaie is another one that I'd expect to work pretty much throughout the whole of Germany. And e.g. here in Hesse (more precisely: Oberhessen, so Hesse-Darmstadt, not Prussia), there are also the old-fashioned Chaussee and Chaiselongue. Nov 13 '20 at 14:08
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Probably "Prussia" is used here in the sense of "the lands ruled by the Hohenzollern dynasty", not as "the Baltic coast between the Weichsel and Memel rivers".

The explanation that I have heard a lot is that Berlin had a lot of Huguenot immigrants in the late 17th and early 18th century and that this is where words like plärren (pleurer) come from. Some other often cited examples are etepetete (said to be derived from étre peut étre, and a bit hard for me to translate) and Muckefuck (m, mocca faux). And Deez (m, tête).

I think much of that vocabulary is not much used anymore, and anyway these are just isolated words, so calling the influence "strong" is quite an overstatement. It may be about comparable to Russian influence which has brought us words like Datsche, Kosmonaut or Matrjoschka.

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