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Thu, Jul 31, 2014

BURRISS: Can we really define exactly what 'English' is?

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Back in the ‘70s, Coca-Cola got into trouble for running an ad about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony. 

Many people apparently saw the catchy little tune as an anthem for a one-world government.

Now, Coke has apparently done it again, this time with a multi-language rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

To begin, let’s exclude all of the folks who thought the vocalists were singing the National Anthem in multiple languages. The National Anthem, for those of you aren’t sure, is the “Star Spangled Banner,” not “America the Beautiful.”

But that still leaves all of the complaints that the song should only be sung in English, because that’s our “official” language.

So I thought it might be fun to take a look at all of those “foreign” words we should eliminate from our language. And I wonder how many we could get rid of in order to “purify” the language and make sure we only speak English.
Algebra” comes from Italy, which borrowed it from Arabic.

From Chinese we get “ketchup,” Hungarian gives us “paprika,” “molasses” is Portuguese. “Gumbo” is Bantu, “pasta” is Italian and “curry” is Tamil.

The Dutch gave us “landscape,” aardvark,” “pickle” and “foist.”

A particularly interesting word is “jukebox.” This word comes from Gullah, an English-based creole, still spoken on islands off the coast of Georgia.  The word “juke,” by the way can be traced back to Western Africa. Another Gullah word we use quite a bit is “mojo.”

The Inuit gave us “kayak” and “anorak.” From Urdu we get “pajama” and “khaki.”

What we call “English” started as West Germanic, and the word “English” itself comes directly from the Angles, from Schleswig-Holstein, in what is now northern Germany.

Come to think of it, I don’t know that anyone can say with certainty just what “English” is, and any attempt to keep out “foreign” words will just prove futile, which, by the way, is Middle French, not English.

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coke, english, larry burriss
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