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June 23, 2011

Where Words Come From - Part 14

One of the most frustrating things - and also one of the most enchanting things about the English language is how active, dynamic it can be in terms of...

...acquiring, adapting or even fully creating new words.

Here are just a few examples to consider; the name, Häagen-Dazs, (the premium ice cream) does not derive from any of the North Germanic languages; it is simply two made-up words meant to look Nordic to American eyes (the digraphs "äa" and "zs" are not a part of any native words in any of the Scandinavian languages). This is known in the marketing industry as foreign branding. The developers knew that Denmark had a positive reputation for its dairy products and had a positive image in the U.S.A. They also included an outline map of Denmark on early labels, as well as the name of Copenhagen prominently displayed. The playful spelling devices in the name evoke the spelling systems used in several European countries.

LOL (laughing out loud) and ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) have become common place in email correspondence - but sure to avoid their use in a professional setting. Be particularly prudent with LMAO (you can look this one up or ask a friend if you don't know it).

And then there is the use of made up words for literary purposes. Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll are masters of this particular craft. Be sure to read their writing out loud for maximum impact. These would be particularly enjoyable for a group project - perhaps even reading their poems and stories together. For more details on Lear and Carroll, you can start here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_nonsense.

I confess to being a word nerd, but there are many possibilities in a language as flexible and fluid as English.Send us any words that make you crazy and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf is currently a radio host (http://www.tacoma.fm/) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/ and would love to do either one of those somewhere else in the world.

Posted by mmorf at June 23, 2011 05:50 PM


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