Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Franglais indeed... (answer to "The Richness of English")

A while ago we asked
Where does the difference between the following words come from? :
  • cow and beef
  • calf and veal
  • swine (or pig) and pork
  • sheep and mutton
  • hen and poultry (although chicken is also used for the meat, ‘poultry’ is never used for the living animal)

The "Bill" of the answer is indeed William the Conqueror: when the Normans conquered England in 1066 they brought their French language with them. So the ruling class who ate meat spoke Anglo-French (also called Anglo-Norman), while the peasants who farmed the animals spoke the English of the time.

Bill Bryson calls the Norman conquest of 1066 the "final cataclysm [which] awaited the English language." .

Here's a list of some English words of French origins - and some of them might surprise you:

  • wage (Old Fr, gage)
  • war (from guerre)
  • ward, ward-robe (from garde, garde-robe)
  • warrant, (from garantie)
  • screw (Old Fr, escroue)
  • search (Old Fr, cerchier)
  • rock (Old Fr, ro(c)que)
  • remain (Old,.Fr, remaindre)
  • recorder (Old Fr, recordeur)
  • plumber (Old Fr. plommier)
  • jewel (from joyau)
  • bullet (from boulette, although the modern French for this is balle)

(more here)


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