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Why did 'verboten' come into use when English already has a perfectly good word, 'forbidden', that means exactly the same thing but is much more widely understood? Is there a subtle difference that I do not get?

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The English like to stereotype Germans as excessively prone to follow orders without question (maybe it helps us get to grips with the Holocaust). So when we use the word 'verboten', it invariably implies some criticism of the mindset or authority that's doing the "forbidding". – FumbleFingers Aug 15 '12 at 4:33
@FumbleFingers - that would seem to square with ngrams, showing significant spikes at the start of WW1 and WW2. Given the spike in WW1 and the that the spikes seem to begin at the start of the wars, I'm not sure about the Holocaust angle. – dave Aug 15 '12 at 5:29
The OED's earliest citation is from Rupert Brooke in 1912. The second is from John Buchan four years later. – Barrie England Aug 15 '12 at 7:18
up vote 7 down vote accepted

In addition to agreeing with the excessively-prone-to-follow-orders-without-question connotation FumbleFingers mentions in his comment, I believe that the use of "Das ist verboten", with an over-the-top stress pattern, as a mild reproof hedges it: "That is forbidden" or, more commonly, "You mustn't do that" sounds far more censorious. The pomposity is now partly self-acknowledged, so the person being told off doesn't feel so cut off as the only non-normal person.

Perhaps this only works when the recipient has watched " 'Allo 'Allo " or the like.

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Or Hogans' Heroes in the US. – bib Aug 15 '12 at 12:33

protected by RegDwigнt Aug 15 '12 at 11:05

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