We all know that English is chock full of loan words – we’ve stolen words from just about every language there is, from German to Hindi. However, it’s also no secret that other countries haven’t been impervious to the influence of the English language. Not all too long ago it would have been incredibly hard to avoid the heavy hand of English, thanks to the British Empire, which at one point ruled over a quarter of the whole world. We’re really sorry about that, by the way.
Now, the reasons for English loanwords aren’t quite so imperialistic, though some would argue that English is still very much trying to assert its dominance. Many English loanwords appear to be technological or scientific, perhaps because the scientific world is generally dominated by English, so English gets to name lots of new things first.
Here are some English words and terms that have managed to wiggle their way into languages around the world. Some of these words are direct loanwords and some have morphed slightly to fit in with their adoptive language.
amerikandoggu (from “American dog”)
When I first saw this one, I thought it was just referring to an American dog, like an American bulldog or Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It makes much more sense that it actually means “corn dog”, a variation of which can apparently be found in Japan. Being British, I’ve never had a corn dog, but perhaps their deep-fried nature could appeal to the Scottish half of me.
haikara (from “high collar”)
This is slang from the 1920s and refers to a person who was devoted to Western fashions, trends and values. I don’t know whether these were the values of the rebelling younger generation or their fuddy-duddy parents but, for the record, I’m imagining lots of Japanese girls in flapper dresses.
downloaden (to download)
One of many technical words that have found their way into German and other languages.
As in high on drugs, not in the Biblical sense. I imagine the correct usage of this is somewhere along the lines of, “Dude. Ich bin seeehr stoned.”
Meaning the contraceptive pill (perhaps quite obviously), this word has to be one of my favourite English to German loanwords. So clear and to the point. In fact, I’m going to start using it myself.
Like several other languages, Italian has taken many of its IT words from English. They also use router, browser and mouse.
Italian seems to have picked up a bit of business jargon from English too – shares, marketing and franchising have also found their way into Italian.
filamu and muziki (film and music)
As well as words for film and music, English has also been the basis for Swahili words relating to trains, planes and automobiles (and the humble bicycle).
Do you know of any English loanwords in other languages? Which languages are most receptive to borrowing words from English?