English /Borrowing from other languages

NYC Al   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 17:51 GMT
Whisky was literally the "water of life" for many people in Northern Europe, as was beer. In earlier times clean fresh supplies of water were often very difficult to come by. Before the building of modern filtered water systems, and the coming of commercialized bottled water, the drinking of water could be quite dangerous to one's health. Water was often tainted by bacteria both naturally and resulting from poor sanitation practices. In addition, places like Ireland had few sources of water aside from rain water, and other parts of Northern Europe had its water frozen for much of the winter season, so water had to be stored, and usually became tainted, stale, and undrinkable.

However, the distilling of water with grain (whisky) or the brewing of water with grain (beer) gave people drinks that were sterile, and therefore much safer to consume than regular water. These drinks could also be stored for a long time and still be safely drinkable. Until the late 19th Century it was very common for children to be given these drinks, particularly beer, and it was considered quite healthy for them. In this way whisky and beer production and consumption in Northern Europe was very similar to that of wine in Southern Europe, and much more beer and whisky was consumed on a per person basis than is the case today.

The fact that these drinks also made people more "lively" and sociable was, of course, a nice side-effect, and made them even more the "water of life."

Interestingly, I used to live in Japan, and I was told more than once the story that the word "whisky" (or, if you prefer, "whiskey") was Japanese in origin. I'm not sure how this rumor got started, as it is very clearly untrue. Whisky first came to Japan with American and Scottish people in the mid 19th Century.
Tremmert   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 18:43 GMT
So if you want to steralise your innards, go ahead, drink whiskey...

That 'all words come from Greek' thing was a joke. The guy even tried to prove that 'kimono' comes from Greek by saying there was some work which sounded like in that meant winter, so in winter you put on your kimono...
Clark   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 19:19 GMT
I would not be surprised if the Japanese came up with some type of alcohol first, but I doubt very much that the Scottish stole the idea. They probably had the same ideas independently from each other. Just like writing and civilization with the Egyptians and the Chinese.
NYC Al   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 19:39 GMT
Well, now we are straying way off the subject, but the Japanese do, of course, have their own traditional alcoholic drinks, which include a distilled grian beverage called shochu (and, most famously, the brewed rice drink sake). Distilling is a pretty basic process that seems quite common amongst just about all grain-growing cultures, particularly northern ones. Think vodka, aaqavit (also means "water of life"), schnapps, raki, shao jiu, and others. Interestingly, the claim is made (although I don't necessarily believe this) that all distilled liquors decend from the Arabic "Arrack."
chantal   Thursday, June 12, 2003, 04:31 GMT
For three centuries, the literature of England was trilingual -English, Latin, and French-and we must likewise make ourselves trilingual if we would study it seriously. October 1362, three centuries after 'the Battle of Hastings' is regarded as the turning-point or climacteric, for it was in that month that parliament was first opened where all court proceedings were to be concucted in English though 'enrolled in Latin'. Law French persisted for many years langer. Cromwell tried hard to break it, but it was finally abolished by Act of paliament in 1731. Law French is still retained in the form of the royal assent (Le loi le veult) or refusal (Le loi s'avisera) to a Bill in parliament. We see French in the Royal Arms (Dieu et mon droit) : for example, above the Court Circular in The Times; we find French in the crest of the Garter (Honi soit qui mal y pense), in the language of heraldry, in the expressions like congé d'élire, giving permission to a cathedral chapter to fill a vacant see by election, and in oyez 'give hearing', often pronounced 'O yes', the court crier's call for silence deriving ultimately from Latin 'audiatis'. We still have R.S.V.P (Répondez s'il vous plaît) printed on our invitation cards and we still use Messrs (for Messieurs) in everyday corresspondence.
thomas   Sunday, June 15, 2003, 01:58 GMT
Since the time of Shakespeare, English has continued to change. Settlers from Britain moved across the world - to the USA, Australia, New Zealand, India, Asia and Africa, and in each place, the language changed and developed, and took in words from other local languages. For example, 'kangaroo' and 'boomerang' are native Australian Aborigine words, 'juggernaut' and 'turban' came from India.

With the increase in communication, travel, radio and television, all these different types of English have mixed. So in Britain now, because of American and Australian TV programming, we use many parts of Australian and American English. And words from many other languages - French, German, Spanish, Arabic, even Nepali - have been borrowed. So English continues to change and develop, with hundreds of new words arriving every year. For better or worse, it has truly become the world's international language.
It has become the language of science, air traffic control, the world of computers, and most of the Internet. And in many countries, where there are other competing languages and people groups, English has been chosen as a common second language. This has happened in Nigeria and Ghana.

This may not seem fair to other important and valuable languages which are also international! For example, those of us who know and love France, realise that the French regret the way their language may not be so much of an international language as it used to be. And it is sad that English people are often lazy, and don't bother to learn other languages!
Redacted   Monday, June 23, 2003, 15:40 GMT
The English language has borrowed words from many different sources: Latin, Celtic: Goidelic & Brittonic, Germanic etc.
Dorian   Wednesday, June 25, 2003, 05:31 GMT
I learnt at shool the other day that these words came from Persian into English (Farsi; the official language in Iran) :
Azure : bright blue, a azure color (old French azur from Persian)
It's amazing that we never go further than Greek when looking for the etymology of the words.
Corey Graham   Thursday, June 26, 2003, 16:10 GMT
the reason why english is such a good language is because it can adapt to any culture or any mix of culture and still remain fluent, and most importantly coherent.
Simon   Thursday, June 26, 2003, 16:12 GMT
I'm not sure. I think the modern flexibility of English has a lot to do with the flexibility of the culture that uses it as a vehicle. When the culture was more limited, so was the language.
sam   Friday, June 27, 2003, 02:57 GMT
Do you know where the word "typhoon" comes from ?
wanna   Friday, June 27, 2003, 03:01 GMT
Do you know the origin of the word 'shawl' ?
Simon   Friday, June 27, 2003, 08:54 GMT
Typhoon came to English from Arabic via Greek. Shawl is from the Persian word "shal".
wanna   Friday, June 27, 2003, 15:19 GMT
Simon thank you
niki   Friday, June 27, 2003, 18:08 GMT
Do you know where "cushy "is originally from ?
Is it Persian or Urdu ?
And what does it mean ?