Speaking Plain English? A New Exhibition Will Chart How English Has Become the Global Language - Being Influenced in Turn by Many Foreign Languages. PATRICK JOSEPH Finds out More about Booze, Zombies and Bungalows

The Journal (Newcastle, England), April 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Speaking Plain English? A New Exhibition Will Chart How English Has Become the Global Language - Being Influenced in Turn by Many Foreign Languages. PATRICK JOSEPH Finds out More about Booze, Zombies and Bungalows


Byline: PATRICK JOSEPH

ZOMBIE, booze and dollar are just three of the words featuring in anew exhibition revealing the global reach of English with many of our favourites originating overseas.

The British Council has released a list of words to mark the opening of The English Effect - a major new exhibition at its London headquarters, exploring the power, impact and value of the English language around the world.

One of the exhibition's three zones is dedicated to the words that English has absorbed from other languages, reflecting the many countries and cultures with which it has come into contact throughout history.

Dollar tops the list. The word, synonymous with America's financial might, actually entered the English language from German. It originates from the word Taler, which was a shortened form of Joachimstaler - a coin first minted in 1519 from the silver of a mine in the town of Joachimsthal.

Despite the urban myth that the word bungalow was coined when a builder was told to "bung a low roof" on a property after running out of bricks, the word originated in the Bengal region of India, where it was a name for one-storey homes built for early European immigrants, originally meaning belonging to Bengal.

Booze has its origins in the medieval Dutch busen, which means to drink to excess and was first used in English by the thieves and beggars of the 1500s before spreading to the wider population.

Zombie and vam-pire have their roots in West Africa and Hungary respectively.

John Worne, director of strategy at the British Council, said: "Many of our most popular and evocative English words - words we couldn't live without - came from other countries and cultures. "When we look at their roots, we get a fascinating insight into how the language has been influenced throughout its history.

"English is not just 'our' language - it truly belongs to the whole world, and brings real benefits to anyone who can speak it. Even a few words can bring work, a job or new opportunities."

The exhibition also looks at how English has become the global language. More than 11/2 billion people are learning English, one in seven of the world's population, and the English language teaching industry is now worth PS2bn to the UK economy. English is also the dominant language of communications, science, information technology, business, entertainment and diplomacy.

Mongrel roots of English

1 Baroque - Portugal

Baroque entered English from French in the 1700s, but the name of this European artistic movement of the 1600s and 1700s originates from Portuguese barroco "pearl of irregular shape".

The word came to mean bizarre in general, and was adopted as the name of an artistic style characterised by bold, florid ornamentation.

2 Coach - Hungary

Coach entered English in the 1500s from French, but comes ultimately from Hungarian, probably from the name of Kocs, a place in Hungary on an important coaching route where such vehicles were apparently made. A sporting coach has the same origin, someone who trains or coaches people being compared to the driver of a horse-drawn coach.

3 Dollar - Germany

The word dollar originated from the German Taler. The word occurs in English from the mid-1500s referring to various different silver coins, including Spanish coins used in many of its colonies. Also used in British colonies in North America during the War of Independence, the dollar was adopted as the US currency in 1785.

4 Peace - France

After the Norman Conquest in 1066 the French language began to heavily influence English words. The word peace is one of very many words for very basic things and concepts that were borrowed into English from French in the Middle Ages.

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Speaking Plain English? A New Exhibition Will Chart How English Has Become the Global Language - Being Influenced in Turn by Many Foreign Languages. PATRICK JOSEPH Finds out More about Booze, Zombies and Bungalows
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