Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flexibility of the English Language and Texting

As previously reported on the difficulty that non-English speakers have in mastering the English language, I’d like to add the irrational spelling that we see in some “homonyms” like flew and flue, wine and whine, steal and steel, bare and bear etc. On the other hand, English is the most flexible language in the world. The word “run, for instance, takes up 15 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary.
We live in a world that creates 175,000 new blogs every day and where texting has become a playful and universal language. Recently, I received a text message on my cell phone that I was unable to decipher. So I decided to Google it. Here are some of the most popular ones that I made note of: b4, fyi, asap, thx, xoxo, cy, BF, GF, omg, gl, jff. These types of messages are certainly short and concise. Knowing how much the young generation loves and uses these new abbreviations, and that 1.6 billion text messages a day are being sent in China alone, there is no doubt in my mind  that text messaging will be the new communication medium of the 21st century.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


It seems that the trend of borrowing words, as mentioned in my previous article, is now reversed. Nowadays, English words are continually being adopted by all languages spoken in the world. Despite the efforts of some nations trying to forbid English terms, like France did in 1994 by passing a law prohibiting English words, where French words existed, that didn’t stop the relentless advance of English and have now given up.

Jean-Paul Nerrière, a linguistic French scholar, understood that English would be the language of the third millennium and coined the word Globish, in reference to the kind of English spoken by non-English speakers, as their English is not quite the same as the one we  speak in North America, and they only use a limited vocabulary of 1500 words. To this end in 1995 he wrote two books: “Decouvrez le Globish”, and “Parlez Globish.” International English is going through different phases, Franglais, Spanglish and now Globish, which has found  an advocate in Robert McCrum, famous English writer.

English is spoken by over two billion people and remember that there are more students studying English in China, 350 million, than people in the USA. In fact, China has started teaching compulsory English in all public schools, starting in third grade of elementary schools.

Will the whole world ever speak the same language?
It’s not unusual to see, in non-English speaking countries, signs with English messages, although in some instances they don’t make sense, or they don’t convey the meaning intended.

Here are some signs reported by the International Educator:
1.In a Paris Hotel elevator: Please  leave your values at the front desk. If you lose them in your room, we’re not responsible.
       2. Honk Kong tailor shop: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.
       3. Bankok drycleaner: Drop your trousers here for best results.
      4. Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having good time..
      5. Czech tourist agency: Take one of our horse driven city tours. We guarantee no miscarriages.
      6. Norwegian Lounge : Ladies are asked not to have children in the bar.
      7. In Mexico: All the water in this hotel has been personally passed by the manager.
      8. In Japan: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

Friday, October 1, 2010

“English is a vacuum-cleaner of a language”

In fact, English has borrowed words from over 350 languages around the world, thus making it the only language with the most words. The Oxford English Dictionary had listed 616,500 words in the 2005 edition, while in June 2009 English is said to have acquired its millionth word. It has been a big surprise for me to discover that about 65% of the English words derive from Latin and that over 25% come from French. Here is a brief list of words, that are part of our every day English vocabulary and that were taken from Latin.

A.D. for anno domini,   A.M. for ante meridiem,  ad nauseam ,  addenda,  affidavit,  agenda,  alma mater,  auditorium,  aurora borealis (australis), bonus,  c.v. for curriculum vitae ,  campus,   fetus,  forum, in absentia,  in flagrante delicto,  in vitro, memorabilia,  memorandum,  millennium,  P.M. for post meridiem,  P.S. .for post scriptum, pandemonium,  penis, per capita,  per se,  persona non grata,  podium, premium, quorum, referendum, senior, solarium,  stadium, status quo,  terminus viceversa,  villa,   virus, etc, etc.

à la carte,  antique,  apéritif, armoire,  baguette,  ballet,  banquet,  belle, bouquet,  bourgeoisie,   boutique,  bracelet,  bric-à-brac, camouflage, carte blanche, chauffeur,  champagne,  chargé d’affaires,  chef,  cliché, coiffeur, collage, concierge,  coup de grâce,  critique,  cul de sac,  décor,  déjà vu,  dessert , détour,  digestif,  discothèque, élite,  entrepreneur, équipe, étiquette,  fait accompli,  farce, gourmet, héroïne, hors-d’œuvre,   liaison ,limousine, maître d`hôtel, manœuvre, mardis gras, marionnette, massage matinée, pirouette, personnel, premier, questionnaire, rendez-vous, répertoire, route,  table d`hôte,  tête-à-tête, tournée, tour…

adagio,  andante, antipasto , arena, aria, ballerina, bel canto, belladonna, belvedere, bordello, bravo, broccoli, caffè,  cannelloni, cappuccino, ciao, cupola, dilemma, dilettante, diva, dolce vita , duo, espresso, fiasco , finale, forte, fresco,  ghetto, graffiti, imbroglio , incognito, inferno, influenza,  latte, lingua  franca, loggia, maestro,  malaria, marina,  motto, mozzarella, nostalgia, opera , paparazzi, pasta , piano, piazza,  porcini, presto, primadonna ,  propaganda,  ravioli , replica, salvo, scenario solo, soprano, spaghetti , stucco, studio,  terracotta,  vendetta, villa...

adiós, alfafa, armada, avocado, banana, bandido,  bonanza,  bronco,  cafeteria,  canasta,  cantina,  cargo,  chili,  cinema,  conga, coyote,  desesperado,  enchilada ,  fiesta,  flamenco,  guerrilla,  jalapeño, laguna,  macho,  mañana,  margarita,  mosquito,  orégano, patio,  piña colada, pinto,  plaza,  poncho, pronto, pueblo,  rodeo,  sierra,  siesta ,  silo,  sombrero,   tango,  tequila, tomate, tornado, tortilla, vainilla,  vigilante…

No wonder English is the lingua franca of business, diplomacy, science, and technology.
Lately it has affected the two official languages of the European Union (French and English) as English now seems to be the preferred workable language. I think it’s safe to say that, thanks to the internet, English is spreading like a virus.