Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

'This'll make you laugh,' said my husband, sounding like George V commenting on an Impressionist painting. 'Someone in the Telegraph says that the French shouldn't borrow English words.'

Once I had managed to wrest the paper from his dog-in-the-manger grasp, I found it didn't quite say that, but rather that foreigners ought not to plaster advertisements and clothing with English words if they didn't know their meaning.

I had been thinking something similar.

The example that had been annoying me was the name of a medium-trendy Spanish clothing chain, Pull & Bear, which has been spreading over Spain like Chalara fraxinea in England. At first I thought it was meant to be a pair of invented surnames.

Then I wondered whether it had been influenced by the French word pull, which means 'sweater', being an abbreviation of the loan-word 'pullover'. The Spanish too have borrowed pullover, but they have had difficulties with its spelling.

First they made the double-l single, because it would otherwise sound more like the letter y.

Then they decided to accent it on the middle syllable: pulover. …

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