Pindar said, "Words have a longer life than deeds." As long as I can remember, I have been irresistibly drawn to the mechanics, structure, sound, rhythm, and power of language. I am fascinated by word origins, expressions, idioms, connotations, slang, terminology and dialect. Quite simply, I love words and believe that since they are the vehicles that can get us wherever we want to go, we should never use them recklessly. English has its roots in Latin and French, but we share words with many countries and cultures. Today’s column will look at a few of the words in our everyday vocabulary that have come from other languages.
I will try not to go on ad infinitum (meaning forever, in Latin) or ad nauseum (Latin for long enough to make you sick), but hopefully I will say something of interest to readers who are also word aficionados (Spanish for enthusiasts).
Do you enjoy your apple pie à la mode (French for in style, but to us it means with ice cream)? Did you have a bagel or a baguette for breakfast? The former is a German word and the latter is French. Perhaps you like to eat in a bistro. That’s a Russian word meaning quickly. It was used mockingly by the French after Napoleon was conquered in the Battle of Waterloo because it was always being shouted by impatient Russian soldiers frequenting Parisian cafés. The caffe latte many people enjoy at Starbucks and elsewhere is an Italian term. So are cappuccino and espresso. Gazpacho, the delicious cold soup we may be eating on hot summer days is a Spanish word and a Spanish recipe. So is our avacodo dip, guacamole.
There are many more food-related terms, but I’d like to just mention clothing as well. Jodhpurs, our word for riding breeches, is Russian . So is the knitted helmet, balaklava. Bandanna is a Hindi word. Camisole is French. Mannequin, the name for the plastic model in clothing stores, is a Dutch word that came to us from the French who adopted it first.
Until next time: au revoir, auf wiedersehen, adios, and ciao.