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Laptop ban at German transport ministry

Words such as "laptop" and the quite delightful "handy" (meaning cell phone) are examples of so-called Denglish and are now banned by Germany's transport ministry.

Germany is a remarkably underrated country. Not only has it largely avoided the financial arthritis brought on by the most greedy banks, it also offers a unique sense of playful optimism in a world gone sour.

You might, therefore, wonder why Germany's transport minister, Peter Ramsauer, rammed through a rather difficult diktat against laptops.

Oh, he didn't ban his no doubt assiduous employees from staring into screens and rectifying traffic problems. No, he banned the use of the word "laptop" as it is not German but Denglish--that difficult mixture of Deutsch and English.

The Independent reports that the replacement of "laptop" with the far more elegant "Klapprechner" has been an uproarious triumph.

It seems that other techneologisms have failed to escape the cross herrs (my pun) of the ministry. The wondrous (not really) German word "downloaden" is now verboten.

How can this work of art possibly be a Klapprechner? Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

However, I must admit to a woe-filled tear duct at the thought that a common Denglish word for cell phone has also suffered the same cloaking as have so many German buildings on Google Street View.

For many Germans refer to their cell phone as their "handy".

Yes, no more "I have lost my handy." At least at the transport ministry. Out with "Can I take a picture? I'll use my handy." And begone "I haven't had a handy since my iPhone caught fire at the circus."

Somehow, this seems a great pity. It also seems symbolic of the year 2010. The more we have believed that technology enhances freedom (including freedom of speech), the more the truths of that supposed freedom have been tested, questioned and, in some cases, assaulted by greasy-haired lawyers.

Technology has taken us to places where some (even those in government) feel more uncomfortable than in a tuk tuk from Moscow to Turkmenistan. As those whose incomes (and politics) depend on making technology's exigencies the only ones that matter, real human beings will, just occasionally, worry and resist. In 2011, that tension will only become more pointed.

But one cannot leave 2010 on a miserable note. So might I wish everyone who has read, commented, written e-mails (using long words or short), liked, disliked or retweeted, an extremely enlightened New Year.

Perhaps I will bump into some of you at CES. Should I have a glazed look in my eye, it will probably be the shock of the new. Or the effects of a random tempranillo.