Quel Dommage!

I’m no one’s idea of a polyglot. My “reading languages” in grad school were French and German (although I’ve pretty much forgotten the latter), and I had two years of Latin in high school, which I’ve supplemented on my own through my graduate years. I can read most dialects of Middle English fluently, and can wade through Old English given sufficient time and my Anglo-Saxon dictionary, and I have what I might call kitchen Spanish (but it had better be una cucina pequena indeed).

Still, I like to observe the interplay of different languages, particularly in regard of mingled/borrowed vocabulary. The slatternly characteristics of English in this regard are well known, of course, but other languages strive for greater chastity. Most notably, there’s French. The French are notorious for attempting to maintain some form of pure Francophony (which we have seen played out for better or worse from the Seine to Quebec), but as Joseph A. Harriss observes at The American Spectator, this may prove merely a beau geste.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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1 Response to Quel Dommage!

  1. nightfly says:

    There’s the old joke that English mugs other languages and rummages through their pockets for loose vocabulary. Even if not, you could always point to someone like Lewis Carroll: to hell with it, I’ll just invent “chortle” and watch it be a real word when it grows up.

    This habit has endured, especially in advertising. I don’t know if other languages do this, but English is rife with playing on homophones, letter substitutions, and old-fashioned portmanteaus to cook up faux-words that don’t officially exist: especially in advertising and humor. “Shopportunity.” “Fashionista.” It’s a little like the compounding of nouns in German, I guess, though I know little of such things.

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