Sometimes you really appreciate the Germanness of English. I was thinking about this, naturally enough, after the resignation of the short-lived U.S National-Security Advisor Mike Flynn (yes it’s often written as National Security Advisor, but it’s logical to hyphenate it). While watching reports on Belgian TV, I noticed that the French for National-Security Advisor is conseiller à la sécurité nationale. Oof! 5 words instead of 2 (or 3, but National-Security can be considered as one, as it’s hyphenated), 13 syllables instead of 10. This doesn’t really give a true impression of the difference though, as French syllables are generally longer than English ones, as in English we have weak forms; short vowel sounds for unemphasized syllables. Think of how brief the io sound in national is, for example, and how many people almost skip it when speaking.
If you were to translate conseiller à la sécurité nationale directly into English, it would be Advisor of National Security. As I’ve mentioned before, this structure is quite common in romance languages. And I don’t mean to criticise it, because it can be useful. It provides a common, consistent structure you can just plug the nouns into. And as it’s so consistent across languages, it can help if you want to learn a similar language. And even if we don’t use it much in English, it’s still useful for lower-level learners, as it’s often grammatically correct, and helps them to construct simple sentences. But it can be long!
So I really love how we can construct so many compound nouns in English. This is something we’ve picked up from Proto-Germanic languages, and is still evident in modern German. Some people like to joke about incredibly long German compound nouns, but I like their simplicity: