Wellness, die

One of the most dangerous of all the pseudo-Anglicisms, this German term can even mislead native English speakers. Yes, there is an English word wellness. Yes, it can be used in English as an arch and irritating synonym for good health. But there the resemblance ends. Die Wellness is a set of undemanding activities offered at a spa or health club for customers who are too weak, or sometimes too lazy, to take part in a proper fitness programme: massage, soaking in a hot pool or going for a relaxing stroll. The Duden Fremdwörterbuch defines die Wellness as "durch leichte körperliche Betätigung oder Anwendungen erzieltes Wohlbefinden," but this does not accurately represent current German usage. Die Wellness is not a state of being, as in English, but an action or a service. One does not aspire to die Wellness: one practices die Wellness by lying in hot water. The term is favoured since it seems exotic and virtuous, but is often a euphemism for the second rate. If a German hotel has a small pool, but no sports equipment, the sign on the door will say Wellnessbereich instead of Fitnessbereich. This Anglicism probably developed as a fragment of a longer original term such as das Wellnessprogramm and may have been helped in its spread through the German-speaking world by the title of a 1994 Anthony Hopkins comedy, The Road to Wellville (Willkommen in Wellville). It ranks as a borderline pseudo-Anglicism, since it is not completely unintelligible, but its core German meaning is inaccessible to a native English speaker. There are some indications that it may be making a round trip: it has appeared in many badly translated or badly edited English texts and may be in the process of being picked up and used by native English speakers in an abridgement of the German sense. Die Wellness is capitalized, hypenated, given feminine gender and is not inflected.

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