Where did you get that from?

Published 29th November 2010
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We had spaghetti with bolognese.
We need to buy aubergines and courgettes.

I am pretty sure that almost all of us have said something like this at least once in our lives. But where do the words spaghetti, Bolognese, aubergines and courgettes come from? We employ them daily, but these words actually come from other languages and are therefore called loanwords or borrowings.

Loanwords are words adopted by the speakers of one language from a different language (the source language). A loanword can also be called a borrowing. The abstract noun borrowing refers to the process of speakers adopting words from a source language into their native language. “Loan” and “borrowing” are of course metaphors, because there is no literal lending process. There is no transfer from one language to another, and no “returning” words to the source language. They simply come to be used by a speech community that speaks a different language from the one they originated in.*

English has borrowed several words from Italian. This is of course, more prevalent in cuisine. Everyone talks about ravioli, tortelloni, tiramisu and prosecco. All these words have found a place in the English language and are used every day. Another domain where Italian borrowing plays an important role is definitely music. Allegro, largo, andante, presto are all musical tempos (another Italian borrowing!). They tell musicians how quickly they should play the piece.

English has also borrowed a lot of words from other languages. Let’s take French. Have you ever realised that the Criminal Records Bureau actually has a French loanword in its name? ‘Bureau’ is indeed a French word, whose main meanings are ‘office’ and ‘desk’. But let’s not forget other words such as ‘cliché’, which is used to describe an overused or hackneyed phrase.

I have only taken two languages into account, but you are more than welcome to list other borrowings both from Italian and French as well as from other languages! Have a go at it and add a bit of ‘borrowing flavour’ to your daily English!

CHIARA VECCHI

*From http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/loanwords.html (accessed on 26.11.2010)
We had spaghetti with Bolognese.
We need to buy aubergines and courgettes.

I am pretty sure that almost all of us have said something like this at least once in our lives. But where do the words spaghetti, Bolognese, aubergines and courgettes come from? We employ them daily, but these words actually come from other languages and are therefore called loanwords or borrowings.

Loanwords are words adopted by the speakers of one language from a different language (the source language). A loanword can also be called a borrowing. The abstract noun borrowing refers to the process of speakers adopting words from a source language into their native language. “Loan” and “borrowing” are of course metaphors, because there is no literal lending process. There is no transfer from one language to another, and no “returning” words to the source language. They simply come to be used by a speech community that speaks a different language from the one they originated in.*

English has borrowed several words from Italian. This is of course, more prevalent in cuisine. Everyone talks about ravioli, tortelloni, tiramisu and prosecco. All these words have found a place in the English language and are used every day. Another domain where Italian borrowing plays an important role is definitely music. Allegro, largo, andante, presto are all musical tempos (another Italian borrowing!). They tell musicians how quickly they should play the piece.

English has also borrowed a lot of words from other languages. Let’s take French. Have you ever realised that the Criminal Records Bureau actually has a French loanword in its name? ‘Bureau’ is indeed a French word, whose main meanings are ‘office’ and ‘desk’. But let’s not forget other words such as ‘cliché’, which is used to describe an overused or hackneyed phrase.

I have only taken two languages into account, but you are more than welcome to list other borrowings both from Italian and French as well as from other languages! Have a go at it and add a bit of ‘borrowing flavour’ to your daily English!

CHIARA VECCHI

*From http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/loanwords.html (accessed on 26.11.2010)

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