Posts Tagged ‘origin’

h1

Brazilian words in English

June 11, 2014

by Liz Walter
brazilian_words
With the football World Cup in Brazil about to kick off, this blog looks at Portuguese, the language of Brazil, and its influence on English.

The Portuguese loanwords we have in English tend to be for fairly rare items. Probably because the Portuguese were such great explorers, they include several names of living creatures, for example piranha, cobra, flamingo, macaw and plants such as jacaranda (a tropical tree with large, blue flowers) and manioc (a plant grown for its edible roots).

Other English words of Portuguese origin include albino (a person with white skin and hair and pink eyes), sargasso (a large mass of floating plants in the sea), molasses (a dark syrup) and tapioca (a grain used to make a milk dessert remembered with horror by most British people over the age of fifty). Another surprising addition to this list is the word fetish, which originally came from a Portuguese word meaning ‘false’.

Interestingly, there is also a small group of words which have come into English as a result of Portuguese influence in India. Examples are amah (a female servant), ayah (a children’s nursemaid) and mandarin (now used mainly as a critical term for a government official). Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Words from Indian languages

April 23, 2014

by Liz Walter
yoga
From the time the East India Company was set up by Queen Elizabeth I, England (and then Britain) has had a very close relationship with India. Although Hindi became the official language after the end of the British Raj, English is still widely used for communication between speakers of the nation’s more than 1,500 languages.

Of course, the process has not all been one way, and many words have passed from Indian languages into English, some of them so common that most people would have no idea of their origin. Shampoo, for instance, comes from a Hindi word meaning ‘to press’, and dungarees (trousers with an part that covers the chest and straps that go over the shoulders) take their name from the Hindi word for the thick cotton cloth from which they were often made. Bungalow (a house with only one level) comes from the Hindi for ‘in the Bengal style’. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Damn Yankees

April 6, 2011

by Hugh Rawson

As the baseball season opens, I am reminded that the last time I visited Paris, I left my Boston Red Sox cap at home, not wanting to look too much like a tourist. Imagine my surprise, then, at seeing more baseball caps than berets along the Seine, most of them New York Yankee caps, and many of them on French heads.  The damned Yankees seemed to be winning everywhere!

As it happens,  the word Yankee is connected intimately with American history. Popularized initially as a term of disparagement for New Englanders, it was applied by Southerners to all Northerners during the Civil War, and finally became attached to Americans generally, as in “The Yanks are coming” and, less happily, “Yankee go home.”

The origin of Yankee has been much debated. Some have claimed that  it comes from the Cherokee eankke, meaning “slave” or “coward”; others that it derives from Yengees or Yenkees, supposed mispronunciations by Native Americans of  English or Anglais. And these are just a few of the guesses that have been made. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

It’s All OK

February 11, 2011

by Hugh Rawson

It seems fitting to start a new blog on language with a look at the greatest contribution of American English to international discourse: the word O.K., also rendered as  OK, o.k., ok, okay, and sometimes even as okeh. In whatever form, this expression of assent,  approval, or correctness is understood nearly everywhere around the globe, from Afghanistan to Japan to Zimbabwe.

O.K. is remarkably versatile.  It can be employed as a noun (“Will you give this memo your O.K.?”), as an adjective (“It’s an O.K. memo.”), as an adverb (“It reads O.K.”), as a verb (“So I will O.K. it for you.”), or as an interjection (“O.K.! Forget about the memo.”). Depending on context, O.K. can denote positive endorsement (“Congress O.K.’d the treaty.”) or mere acceptance of the status quo (“I’m O.K. with that.”). The expression also is remarkably mutable, having evolved into such forms as oke, okey-dokey, okle-dokle, and A-OK (the last popularized in 1961 when American astronaut Alan Shepard reported the safe splashdown of his Mercury capsule in the Atlantic: “Everything’s A-OK – dye marker out.”) Read the rest of this entry ?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,786 other followers

%d bloggers like this: