"In very many cases, English has borrowed a word
from one language that had previously borrowed it from elsewhere. Among those Portuguese and Spanish words there are many that originated among speakers of very different languages. For instance, piranha comes ultimately from Tupi (a language of Brazil) and acai comes from a related language called Nheengatu, while mango is probably ultimately from Malayalam across the other side of the world in India, and monsoon is ultimately from Arabic (and in a further twist, Dutch may also have played a hand in how it came into English from Portuguese). " (There was a previous BBC article on this topic which is linked in the post which contains more examples.)
BBC article about how words have flowed back and forth over the centuries.
"The perception of Shakespeare's matchless linguistic inventiveness
is closely bound up with his role as an icon of English nationalism." New computerized research indicates he didn't make up so many words
. [more inside]
Wondering about your British colleagues wearing tank tops
in chilly weather and complaining about bumf
? Trying to figure out what your American colleagues mean by poster child
or hump day
, or just where exactly kitty-corner
is? Lynneguist's Separated By a Common Language
will get you sorted
. [more inside]
21 emotions English has no word for
. Some things "light us up". Some things "leave us cold". Such dim metaphors only hint at the unspoken universe of feeling, dimensions we can only guess that we share. A new infographic explores "untranslatable" feeling-words from other languages.
(previously here on sign language interpreters
and her 352-page book about 'Invented Languages'
) is currently kicking ass and taking etymologies at the Mental Floss site with a flurry of listicles* on the 'invention' of today's English/American language:
The solidly informational "11 Weirdly Spelled Words—And How They Got That Way"
The entertainingly snarky "11 Creative Suffixes That Inspire New Words"
The just plain fun "From Y’all To Youse, 8 English Ways to Make “You” Plural"
plus one non-linguistic piece of pure pedantry: "11 Movie Chess Scenes Where The Board Is Set Up Wrong"
*** [more inside]
Edward and Bella disemboweld.
Style purists are pretty tedious, but so can be Bella's conversation
. [more inside]
"Toity poiple boids / Sittin on da koib / A-choipin an’ a-boipin / An’ eatin doity woims."
From Atlantic Avenue to Zerega Avenue (map
), the kinds of New York City accents
made famous by the likes of Archie Bunker, Jimmy Breslin and Travis Bickle are disappearing
. But though you may not often hear “foath floah” for "fourth floor" in Manhattan anymore
, documentary filmmaker Heather Quinlan knows
you can still hear strains of the old mellifluous tones in Brooklyn
, Staten Island
, and the Bronx
, and that's exactly what she's setting out to document in her film If These Knishes Could Talk
: "an online lexical reference system whose design is inspired by current psycholinguistic theories of human lexical memory. English nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are organized into synonym sets, each representing one underlying lexical concept. Different relations link the synonym sets." What does one do
This has been floating vaguely in the memesphere for a year or so, and is ready to pop. Seems we Anglophones are not nations separated by a common language anymore, but "a distinct civilization in [our] own right."
Western in origin but no longer entirely Western in composition and nature, this civilization is marked by a particularly strong civil society, which is the source of its long record of successful constitutional government and economic prosperity. ... [its] continuous leadership of the Scientific-Technological Revolution from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first century stems from these characteristics and is thus likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
It is not, however, a return of " the racialist Anglo-Saxonism dating from the era around 1900" ... he says. The author was profiled
in Industry Standard in August 2001. His company provides "sovereignty services" — i.e., moving wealth offshore.
Do Most Of You Yanks Really Understand What The Brits Here Are On About?
Although the cultural mistranslations are probably more a question of tone and habits of irony and understatement, Jeremy Smith's online American·British
, to be published next September, might be of some assistance. Although I still prefer Terry Gliedt's older but pithier United Kingdom English For The American Novice
and even Scotsman Chris Rae's English-to-American Dictionary
. Here's a little BBC quiz
to test your skills. It seems that Canadians
and [another cute quiz coming up!
] New Zealanders
are the only Metafilterians to completely capture all the varieties of English usage here. Perhaps it all comes down to the fact that non-U.S. users know much, much less about England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand et caetera than vice-versa? Does anyone else get the occasional feeling we're not exactly speaking the same language here?
Picky, picky, picky.
What a great place to quibble over the fine points of English usage, such as where commas go
, or the proper way to use the phrase "a lot of"
. Focus all that pre-war nervous energy into refining your speech and writing, maybe?