German Language/Translation for
QUESTION: Dear Janina,
Please could you tell me how you would say "Little John" in German, where "little" in this sense is being used like a nickname?
Thank you so much for your time.
ANSWER: Hello Mina,
thank you for your question.
When I hear the name Little John, it makes me think of Robin Hood. So, if your question is about that character from the fables, you can just leave the name in English. In all the German translations I know, this name was left in English.
However, if you need a more accurate translation, there are other possibilities. In German "John" translates as Johannes (from which derive names such as Johann, Hannes, Hans etc.) In a way, Hans already is a nickname for Johannes, but it is commonly used as a "normal" first name by now. As you're looking for an obvious nickname, you could pick "Hänschen" or "Hansi". Especially in "Hänschen" the "chen" already contains the meaning of small.
For example the German word for dog is "Hund", and "Hündchen" is a small dog or a puppy.
If you want to put small in front of the names, you can say "Klein-Hänschen" or "Klein-Hansi", but I really think this is redundant, and it definitely sounds like nicknames for small children. There actually is a German children song which is called "Hänschen Klein".
If you'd like to know how these words are pronounced, you can try entering the German names on dict.cc
There's a button with a speaker symbol next to each word, which you can click to hear the words pronounced.
I hope this helps.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you, Janina.
So, as I understand it from your answer, it would be far more normal in German to add "chen" to the end of a name, rather than adding Klein at the beginning?
The reason I ask this question is because in an English television series I was watching, a German character called one of the other English characters "Klein John", to mean little John. I wanted to know if that was correct, or would it have been more normal for the German character to have called him Johnchen?
Thank you very much!
thank you for your follow up question.
This case actually is a bit special as we are talking about using the English name John. It kind of seems weird to me, seeing the combination of the English name John and the German syllable "chen".
In this case, I think that I probably also would have opted for "Klein John". This is not to say that "Johnchen" is incorrect or not possible. Saying the name out loud a few times, makes me realize that I probably wouldn't give much thought about it if I should I ever hear it.
But seeing it written down, still seems a bit weird, as if you kind of stumble over the word.
So, to answer your question as precisely as possible, it is correct to say "Klein John" in the context of using an English name. It still depends a bit on the situation. I think it would be very normal to use this nickname for a small child. As soon as the person addressed is a teenager or older, this name kind of seems inappropriate and sounds a bit like a mockery. Or like a name grandparents continue using although you actually feel you've outgrown it.
Most Germans would probably say "Johnny" anyhow when talking to an English person of that name, as this nickname is well known from British and American shows and movies.
So, you can't really say that "Klein John" is not correct, but it also depends on the context a lot.
Hope this helps.