Tag Archives: Foreign words & phrases

Much of English Isn’t English

Typing my first blog, circa 1958.

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Roots and Sprouts

We have “English” in America, but the language we use every day is the result of blending the roots and sprouts of Ye Old English, Danish, French, Latin, Greek, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Dutch, and Spanish, et al. 

We explore, below, some words from other languages that have been adopted and adapted into our English language. 

Old English

Kith and kin – basically means friends and relatives. This is one of my favorite phrases, and I know a certain Dragon Master who uses it as well. However, you won’t see it much in blog posts, articles, or memes. 

Eke – as in “eke out a living.” 

To and fro – back and forth

Danish/Scandinavian

Cog, cozy, hug, and maelstrom. 

French – Oh, mon dieu! 

There are about 10,000 French words we have adopted into our every-day English.

Déjà vu 

Fiancé 

Faux

A la carte

Bon appetit

Hors d’oeuvre

Vinaigrette (my favorite dressing!) 

Silhouette

Petite

Chauffeur

Critique (something writers love to get!) 

Déjà vu – Wait…did I mention that one before? 

Latin

It’s not just for attorneys anymore.

Ad hoc, bona fide, circa, ergo, et cetera (commonly known as etc.) habeas corpus, in vitro, per annum, per capita, quid pro quo – I’m looking at you, former guy! 

I could continue, ad nauseam…

Greek 

Galaxy … far, far away

Europe

Dinosaur

Democracy (remember what that feels like?)

Cynicism 

Cemetery

Acrobat

Chinese

Pekoe, bok choy, ginseng, won ton, wok, chow, and ketchup. Alert Heinz! 

We practice tai chi, talk about yin and yang (not ying yang), we play mahjong, and some of us worry about typhoons. 

Hindi

Verandah, jungle, bandana, dinghy, pyjamas (I’ve been living in these going on two years), cashmere, bangles, and shampoo.

Japanese

Tsunami, karaoke, emoji, sushi, tofu, ramen (a college dorm staple), and origami (at one time, my grandson’s obsession). 

Dutch

Boss, yankee (sorry NY, it’s not the ball team), mannequin, bazooka, snoop, frolic, and iceberg (I wonder if the lookout on the Titanic knew he was screaming in Dutch?) 

Spanish

Many of our own U.S. state names are from Spanish origins – California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona. 

You would think this would make our state and some federal administrators more respectful of our Latin American brethren.  

Other words of typical use – corral, chaps, desperado, lasso, alligator, barracuda, cockroach, and everyone’s favorite little bug – the mosquito. 

And let’s not forget an American favorite, now served, infamously on Tuesdays (I could eat them every day) – TACO. 

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What “foreign” words can you think of that

we use in our American English every day?

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