Monthly Archives: February 2012




Borrowing words from other languages is part of “the cosmopolitan character of the English vocabulary” (Baugh and Cable 303).  English is a smorgasbord (Swedish) and cornucopia (Latin) of tributes to ways other languages express certain phenomena, some directly plucked and repurposed:

From the French come apéritif, chauffer, chiffon, consommé, garage; from Italian come ciao, confetti, and vendetta…German has given is angst, festschrift, gestalt, schadenfreude, weltanschauung, zeitgeist, and zither. (Baugh and Cable 303)

The French words reveal as much as they hide in pronunciation—garage becomes a mirage of “age” becoming “ahhj,” a softening of the consonants and intentional blurring of the tongue—consonants become rocks in the river of the word, reference points between the flow of vowels between.  The Romance is apparent in the French and Italian cadence of harmony as the words moan rather than give sharp cries.  The German words seem each to be hammers of hard sound, stretching their stokes to the fullest.  While chauffer’s sharp edge is softened by “chau,” implying a chuckle of “ch” behind the shovel of “sh” that dominates the pronunciation, schadenfreude contains a blur of “sch,” forcing them all to be spoken together—nuance v. impact, question v. command.


Baugh, Albert C., and Thomas Cable. A History of the English Language. Fifth Edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc., 2002. 303. Print.