Another couple of weeks, another European leader whose name we need to figure out how to pronounce.
I think it’s only fair, after looking at the way the French language uses pseudo-anglicisms (a lovely term I came across earlier), it’s only fair that I take a corresponding look at foreign words we use in English, and how their use is different from in their original language. Unsurprisingly, we use a lot of foreign terms, and with most English speakers being monolingual, we don’t always use them as they were originally intended.
Today I’d like to share with you a short article I read recently. It reminded me of something I wrote not too long ago, about how we English speakers aren’t always the best at using the local language when we’re on holiday abroad. You can read the article here, which is based on a survey of British holidaymakers. It was specifically about ordering in restaurants on holiday, but I think it says a lot about how English speakers approach other languages in general. Here are some of the main statistics:
On Thursday 15th June 2017, roaming charges were abolished within the EU. And there was much rejoicing. Roaming charges were one of those things that for a long time I kind of just accepted. Living in Ireland, the rest of Europe usually felt far away enough that it seemed somehow appropriate that using my phone would be more expensive whenever I went there. But recently I drove for about 45 minutes from Belgium to the Netherlands, and suddenly it seemed entirely absurd that I had to pay a fortune (rather than nothing) for using data, just because I’d crossed a fairly arbitrary line. Why should it cost more in a different country? Was I inconveniencing the phone company in some way? Did they have to do more work to drag the data over the border and into my phone?
English has long been fashionable to use in other languages. For teenagers and young adults, it’s the language of a lot of their pop culture, as well as being an international lingua franca, that can help one connect with people all around the world. That’s why, especially across Europe, you’ll find little bits of English peppered throughout people’s speech.
Naturally, this isn’t always going to be accurate in terms of native speakers’ usage, but that’s not so important. I’ve noticed recently though, an apparent trend in how non-native speakers use English that’s a little bit curious, because it reflects one of the ways in which native speakers make mistakes in English.
It seems I’m still thinking about monsters. I was reminded of an interesting fact recently. Many of you will have been aided in learning mathematics by Sesame Street’s The Count (or Count von Count, to give him his full name). The number-loving muppet was obviously a parody of popular images of vampires in general, and especially Count Dracula as portrayed by Bela Lugosi. Hence the name: obviously a pun on Count Dracula, and the fact that the Count… counts. But there may be another layer of meaning to his name… Continue reading
While mentioning Luxembourg yesterday, I was struck by its name: we usually associate the suffix -bourg/burg with towns and cities, and in American English, burg is used as an informal word for town. So why would a country (albeit a tiny one) have a name like a town? I decided to investigate… Continue reading