Tom Muzzio
Tom Muzzio
T.E. Publisher
Don We Now Our Awesome Apparel
English … the creeping language
Return to Vignettes menu
Howling at the Moon

All languages change and evolve. But many also decry and loathe the encroachment of foreign words ... and by that they mean English.

France has its own federally sponsored language board that continually attempts to filter out English words that pour into French every day. Of course, they have selective amnesia when they forget the Norman Invasion of the British Isles, and hundreds of years of French rule, whereupon thousands of French words were incorporated into English in the process.

The Italians gave us lots of their words, so it only seems fair now that we can return the favor. Computer lingo (an example of a Latin word we pinched along the way) is heavily peppered with not only English words, but actual Americanizations ... and that rubs some of the British the wrong way! (Blokes)

Even the liberal Swedes have legally entertained the notion of limiting the creeping influence of English. For decades, Chinese has borrowed technological words that rendered in Chinese are laughable. Dien Nao (literally "electric brain") sounds ludicrous … but then, so does Com-pu-tah. My favorites are those adopted by the Filipinos, who have never had any serious trouble borrowing foreign words. Hundreds of years as a Spanish colony gave them words like: Kotse, lapis, mesa and bentalador for car, pencil, table and electric fan ... although one is more likely to hear elektrikpan today. Of course, they borrowed plenty from the Americans as well ... words like dreib, tennis, holduper, and djyp for drive, tennis, bank-robber, and jeep. Of course, they gave us bundok (for boondocks), and that is a fair trade.

All of that aside, I have my own observations about the drift of American English. Some of it I embrace and some I resist. I was in a meeting of Fundamentalist ministers a few weeks before a long-touted Christmas chorus was to be performed. When discussing the venue, the pastor whose church was sponsoring the event complained that they had to eliminate one of the all-time most famous carols, Deck the Halls. “We didn’t want to have to sing the line: Don we now our gay apparel!” he groused. “The goddamned fags have stolen a perfectly good word, and now we can’t even sing it any more!” He was very upset. I was more shocked with his swearing and vulgarisms than the fact that he could no longer use the word “gay” in anything but a typical sneering and demeaning way.

But I have my own pet peeves, I must confess. My favorite, and one I still refuse to use, is the word “awesome.” I realize that language changes, and kiddie-talk does influence shifts in meaning (and yes, I was hip and cool at one time too). The Pacific Ocean is indeed awesome – the Grand Canyon as well. But a new shirt, a catchy tune, or a new haircut is simply not all that awesome. And maybe someday either I will get with the program, or a new and even more awesome word will replace it, and we can go back to using it as intended – to indicate something truly terrific, magnificent, or spectacular. In the meantime, perhaps the choir could adjust a bit and don their “awesome” apparel : )