English is a language that is always changing and is constantly adapting to the needs of its users. It might be surprising for some to find out that the Oxford dictionary adds approximately 1,000 new words to its pages every year, and these entries come from all different spheres of life, for example, social media (selfie), technological lexis (cyberthreat), products (smartwatch), borrowed words from other languages (bento box), to name but a few.
These words have become part and parcel of our language. Just take the words café’ and croissant, for example. How often have you seen, said or heard these words recently? Probably dozens of times, however, many of us are unaware that they appear in the English dictionary as borrowed words.
Looking a recent statistics, we can see that the majority of borrowed words come from Latin (29%) and French (29%), followed by Germanic (26%) and then other languages (16%) . Some are easy to identify, whilst others are a bit trickier.
Here are some interesting examples of loanwords.
RSVP – abbreviation for “répondez s’il vous plaît”, French for “please reply”; used at the end of a written invitation to mean that you should inform the people who invited you whether you are going to attend or not. E.g. RSVP by 20 March
Gesundheit– a German word sometimes used by British speakers to mean “bless you” and said after someone has sneezed.
Schmooze – a Yiddish word that means to talk in a friendly or intimate way about unimportant things at a social event, especially because you want to gain an advantage for yourself later.
Example: I went to that networking event to schmooze with some potential clients.
Macho– a Spanish adjective to describe a strong, tough, brave and muscular man.
Example: I prefer shy guys. I don’t like macho men.
Moped – is a combination of 2 Swedish words: mo= motor and ped= pedaler. It generally means a small motorcycle with pedals.
Example: He jumped on his moped and rode into the sunset
Paparazzi from Italian, it is used in English to describe a photographer (paparazzo) or a group of photographers (paparazzi) who take pictures of celebrities to sell to newspapers and magazines.
Example: I wouldn’t like to be a celebrity with all those paparazzi following me all the time.
The European Day of Languages
This sharing of words is a clear sign that our language is constantly changing but it is also the result of the meeting of people and the sharing of information and experiences.
To honour this, the Council of Europe decided in 2001 to institute The European Day of Languages, which this year will be celebrated on the 26th September 2017. On this day many schools and institutions are invited to participate in events to encourage language learning and understanding, promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, and to increase intercultural understanding.
Bloomsbury International will be joining in the fun, as we have planned a range of different activities to promote language learning. We will be running a language quiz, a spelling competition (often called a “spelling bee”) and a wide range of activities throughout the day. It will be lots of fun and a great opportunity to learn something from our students.