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Evolutionary English

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Much of the buzz among word lovers seems to be about how English is taking over the world — people in other countries such as China are busy learning to talk to us in what is very close to our daily language, although there are mistakes, as we have seen in Chinglish. The Global Language Monitor told us on June 30 that we now, with all the foreign imports, have 995,892 English words. Indeed, "Never before in the history of the world has a single language held as dominant position as English does today."

But as our world changes, we often feel we have to relearn our language. This is not new; our speech for centuries has been full of borrowings. The global economy and technology have made the process faster and perhaps more extensive. Here are a few terms that are being incorporated into our daily lives that weren't there just a very few years ago:

Retail therapy — according to the Oxford English Dictionary this is a noun "orig. U.S. (humorous) the practice or an instance of shopping to cheer oneself up; shopping regarded as a leisure activity." The first reference comes from the Chicago Tribune in 1986.

Politiqueras — paid election workers who round up voters to get them to the polls — source Mike McIntire and Michael Luo in The New York Times, May 13, 2008.

Underwater — in current business usage, you are underwater if you owe more than the current value of your home. Source: The Wall Street Journal.

Staycation — keeping close to home on annual holiday, either because of economic conditions or the cost of gas.

E-vampire — electric equipment that consumes energy while in standby mode Source: Global Language Monitor.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we all need to stay alert if we want to understand what English speakers are saying. And we have to accustom ourselves to seeing such strange combinations as turned up on the top of my carryout order from Chipotle Mexican Grill here in Richmond. It read: "En francaise: Le Burrito." Now that's globalization.

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