Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Foreign Borrowings in American English

“I can’t decide whether to have chowder, chile con carne, or chop suey for lunch,” said Mark.

“I had pizza yesterday,” remarked Tom, “so I think I’ll eat hamburger today.”

“There’s one thing on the menu I’m sure I don’t want, and that’s squash!” Mark exclaimed.

“A couple of those chocolate cookies,” said Tom, “will be fine for dessert.”

Only part of the words in their conversation had their beginnings in England itself. Many of the words that the boys used were borrowed from other languages. The words whether, have, think, yesterday, eat and today are some of the real English words in Mark and Tom’s conversation.

When Mark used the word decide, he was borrowing from Latin, where the word meant “to cut down.” To decide on something, one “cuts off useless thinking.”

From Brittany, on the north coast of France, comes the term chowder. The fishermen there used a big pot in which to cook fish and biscuits. Each fishermen tossed part of his catch into the pot. The name of the pot was soon given to the food cooked in it, so from the term of the cooking pot we have the word chowder.

Another word from the French is dessert. Their word for this pert of the meal meant “clear away.” Dessert is something that is served after the dirty dishes have been “cleared away.”

The word menu also comes from the French. Menu is French means “a small part.” The meaning probably refers to the fact that the separate details of the meal are listed.

Chile con carne comes from the Spanish language. So does the word chocolate, which was taken from a Mexican Indian word for the cacao tree. Their word for chocolate meant “bitter-water.” If you have eaten unsweetened chocolate, you will agree that the term is a descriptive one.

From Italy, in the southern part of Europe, we get pizza. The term chop suey is from Chinese. Their word for this dish means “odds and ends”. Do you know the ingredients of chop suey? Find a recipe and see how many things go into the making of this dish.

Hamburgers seem to be truly American food, yet they are named for the city of Hamburg in Germany. The word hamburger has no connection with ham.

Our forefathers shortened the Algonquin Indian word, askutasquash, to plain squash.

In speaking of cookies for dessert, Tom used a word from the Dutch. Their word koekje meant “little cake.”

These are only some of many foreign borrowings as people spoke English.