Vendredi de Vocabulaire: Borrowing from English

Languages exchange words all the time. English is full of words that come from other languages, especially French, but also Spanish (patio, canyon), Japanese (animé, haiku), Sanskrit (avatar, guru), and some African languages (gumbo). Usually there’s some change in the meaning of the word as it passes from one language to another.

These days, English and American culture is spreading globally, and English words are infiltrating other languages. Last November from Jennifer Wagner shared a link to a list of French words that seem to have come from English via her twitter account (@ielanguages). The way the meaning of these words has changed is rather amusing.

Faux Amis

Most languages have false cognates: words that look similar in different languages but have different meanings. I’m familiar with many of the ones for English and French—which are often referred to as faux amis or false friends. I recently encountered a new set of faux amis, though: balade and balader.

While there is a french word ballade (feminine) which means ballad, balade (also feminine) means a walk or a ride, and balader means to go for a walk or ride or, in its transitive sense, to take someone or something for a walk or ride.

Adding to my confusion was the fact that the French word for podcast, in addition to podcast (probably masculine), is baladodiffusion. I’m guessing baladodiffusion is feminine since diffusion is feminine, but I could be wrong. Baladodiffusion is also sometimes abbreviated as balado, and an iPod or walkman is a baladeur (masculine) (but walkman [masculine] is also used).

Language thoughts

Most of you know by now that I have a slight language obsession, particularly with French and English.

I’ve always wanted an online resource that would tell me how to pronounce the more difficult French words I encounter. Finally, I found this Text-to-Speech utility that features both Metropolitan and Canadian French pronunciations, as well as American, British and Indian English, German, and Latin American Spanish.

And as long as we’re talking about Indian English, I usually find many of its particularities to be rather annoying (mostly because the cause confusion), but I love the word eggatarian. For French variations, I love the Swiss and Belgian septante and nonante and the Swiss huitante, as well as the Canadian clavarder.