23 Apr

English has borrowed words and phrases – on a permanent basis – from so many languages including Latin, German, Greek, and French. Some of those words have been changed or give a regional colloquial phrase. In Britain for example, the Greek word meaning long sight – television - is telly whilst Americans have abbreviated it to TV. Whilst others are entirely unaltered ballet for example from the French which is said without the ‘t’ at the end. What about the new in word when talking about smart business people – entrepreneur. Separately this word means (in English) between take perhaps that is why we couldn’t find one word for ‘smart business people’. While some words are inherited from their original language such as karate or ninja both of which describe a specific function. 

Latin is usually easy to spot too. Despite being a language which is not commonly spoken any more English speakers use it every day. Salaries for jobs can be stipulated per annum which is Latin for by year. When asked about the education establishment you studied at – you will possibly refer to it as your alma mater – which means nourishing mother. I bet somebody out there has watched a telly programme about the police and a dead body, and there was a post mortem on the body. Altered Greek words with unaltered Latin in one sentence. Lets see what else English can do! Have you watched a cooking program and been told to cook the food until it is al dente. Italian for firm to the tooth but every TV chef will use it. Oh, there you have another sentence with French and Italian in with the English. Did you spot the French word? 

When you see someone who looks like someone else the British might say, they are the spitting image of that person but we could also say they are a doppleganger which is a German word. Watch out for this word in murder mystery books and movies. It’s a common twist in the story. Your first year at school is likely to be called kindy which is an abbreviation for the German word, Kindergarten – children’s garden. You may have taken a rucksack to kindergarten with your lunchbox and water bottle in it. 

According to various linguists it is a little word the which is English’s contribution to its own tongue. Grammatically we call it a definite article, in fact it has no meaning it is a ‘working word’ if you wish; it defines a specific object or objects. Considering English has made plurals so difficult (mouse – mice!), the can be both without a change. The English language is difficult. (Singular specific.) The runners were waiting to start the race. (Plural specific.) The post mortem findings were that the ninja died of a heart attack whilst watching the ballet. I love watching the telly! 

English may have plundered your language too. Do you know of any words?

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