Questions about words borrowed by English from another language.

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17
votes
8answers
2k views

How should foreign words (with foreign characters) be written in English text?

This question is not about italicisation or how to construct plurals. I wonder what are general guidelines for writing foreign words based on a Latin alphabet in English text. I know that, for ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Diacriticals and non-English letters in anglicized loan words: keep 'em, dump 'em, italicize the words, or what?

Take an expression like déjà vu. This is a French term which is frequently seen in English. In fact, it is included in English dictionaries. But it is often seen in English in a variety of forms: ...
13
votes
6answers
2k views

Should nouns borrowed from Japanese be pluralized?

As someone who has watched a lot of subtitled Japanese animation, it seems odd to hear a word such as ninja (used in the plural) in the dialogue and see it transliterated as ninjas. It somehow seems ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

fait accompli – to italicize, or not to italicize

Background I was looking up the rule about italicizing foreign phrases and found an apparent consensus that the criterion is if the phrase is familiar. Well, who gets to decide that? I know perfectly ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Plurals of foreign words

What rules of thumb govern when to pluralise a foreign word as it should be in the original language and when it should be pluralised as an English word? For example, you'd get some funny looks using ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

How would you spell “Tehran” in English for it to be pronounced “correctly” (i.e. as in Persian)?

Native English speakers do not pronounce the h in Tehran so it is pronounced like "Teran". But in the original pronunciation in Persian the h is pronounced, resulting in /tehˈɾɒːn/. Is there any ...
7
votes
2answers
419 views

Should capitalization be preserved in loanwords?

The fundamental principle of gestalt perception is the law of prägnanz (German for pithiness). In German, all nouns are capitalized. Should the above text be written as is, or with "the law of ...
0
votes
3answers
475 views

English from Icelandic?

Why is it that so many English words, as one traces their etymologies, run through Icelandic as one goes back?
22
votes
7answers
51k views

How did “sinister”, the Latin word for “left-handed”, get its current meaning?

Sinister is the Latin word for left-handed. What evolution of meaning turned left-handed into evil and threatening?
7
votes
5answers
368 views

Not “schadenfreude”, but related?

I'm thinking that there must be a word that means, rather than "feeling pleasure in the misfortune of another", "the pleasure of feeling superior to another". This certainly seems (at least) as ...
-2
votes
1answer
651 views

How do you decline nouns borrowed from languages with several categories for declining nouns (or none at all)?

English has two grammatical categories of number. One is the singular, and the other is the plural. Many nouns in English have different singular and plural forms. When nouns are borrowed from ...
22
votes
5answers
2k views

How do you spell Muammar Qaddafi?

This name, which is spelled القذافي in Arabic, is spelled in so many different ways in the Latin alphabet: Gadafi, Gadaffi, Gaddafi, Gaddaffi, Gadhafi, Gadhaffi, Ghadafi, Ghadaffi, Ghaddafi, ...
7
votes
1answer
545 views

Why Abraham and not Avraham?

In the Hebrew scriptures Abraham's name is Avraham and not Abraham (אַבְרָהָם). Is has a v and not a b. The same goes for Rebecca, who is called Rivka in Hebrew. Both v and b sounds are represented by ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Why is baba ghanouj pronounced with a final “sh” sound?

Baba ghanouj is a delicious Middle Eastern dip made from roast eggplant and garlic. I've found the name spelled a multitude of different ways on the internet, but there are two peculiar things about ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Are “tomorrow” and “morning” etymologically related?

I know this is true for German and Spanish: Morgen morgen and Mañana por la mañana both mean "tomorrow morning". There may well be other examples too. I wonder- since these languages ...
8
votes
3answers
30k views

Does the casual use of “a la ___” in English preserve the French meaning?

In English, we use a la carte and a la mode, but it is also common for people to add their own word to the basic construction. For example, one might comment on someone's dancing: He showed us ...
7
votes
6answers
1k views

Why are there so few words in English that are derived from Welsh?

Why are there so few words in English that are derived from Welsh? Wikipedia mentions only 11.
7
votes
3answers
5k views

Naïve, naïf, naïvety, naïveté

I have two related questions about the word "naïve" and its relatives. The first is, shouldn't it be "naïf" if the subject is male? I've been told that it's correct to use the correct ending of ...
6
votes
2answers
480 views

Using “RSVP” as a noun

RSVP literally means "Please respond", however it seems to have turned itself into a noun in common usage: "What's your RSVP for the party?" "I'm attending" Is it acceptable to refer to a ...
6
votes
3answers
555 views

Did “et cetera” gain its popularity from “The King and I”?

Is it possible that et cetera gained its popularity thanks to the 1956 movie The King and I? Since I wasn't around before 1956, I'm not sure how common "et cetera" was in day to day speech. Or was it ...
6
votes
1answer
748 views

Interjection “et voilà”

I know et voilà is a French interjection and means there it is. It is very much used in the US. Why is the use of et voilà so popular in the US? Which historical fact has made it so popular?
5
votes
3answers
256 views

Why is “poignant” pronounced /ˈpɔɪɲənt/?

I felt a little bit strange when I heard poignant pronounced as /ˈpɔɪɲənt/. It is also pronounced as /ˈpɔɪgnənt/, but the former seems to be more popular. A word stagnant has similar spelling, but ...
5
votes
0answers
319 views

How are Japanese words spelt in English? [closed]

When they are writing material in English, I sometimes see native speakers of Japanese misspell English words that were derived from Japanese. For example, I've seen "tunami" written instead of ...
5
votes
3answers
263 views

Anglicization from Hebrew

How should one transliterate the well-known Jewish Holiday that usually takes place in December (or late November)? Hannukah or Chanukah
2
votes
2answers
210 views

Use of the word 'together' as in the Norfolk dialect

In the Norfolk dialect, which I learned at my mother's and grandmother's knee, the word 'together'(pronounced 'tergatha') is used in an additional sense. If there are two people outside I might say ...
2
votes
5answers
604 views

Why do some non-English words become English words?

Why do some non-English words become English words even though there is already are English words meaning the same thing that are more universally understandable? For example, He received kudos ...
2
votes
4answers
1k views

What's up with the hyphen in “orang-utan”?

For most of my life 'till about a couple of years ago, I had only seen the spelling orangutan written to describe those delightful red-headed apes from the tropical forests of Borneo. Lately, though, ...
1
vote
3answers
424 views

Is there a term for French words adopted by the English language, such as “hors d'oeuvres” or “objet d'art”

I would call them "Frenchisms" or some such -ism, but I figured I'd at least ask first. So is there a name for such adopted foreign phrases? Also, how about those adopted from languages other than ...
1
vote
6answers
2k views

Does 'soi-disant' have a close English equivalent?

I considered 'self-proclaimed' but that, I believe, suggests an element of self-promotion (the proclamation aspect) whereas soi-disant, at least as I think of it, is more about self-presentation and ...