About a decade ago, I wrote a small rant about people using walla instead of voilà. I even called such people lazy.
I used to be quite prescriptive in my approach to language. I’ve since realized that English has always been an evolving language. It creates new words, adopts foreign words, modifies foreign words, reassigns existing words, and so on.
And this evolution is unstoppable.
Walla is not the only example of English adopting and anglicizing words from other languages. Let’s put aside the once popular booyah (from the Spanish bulla) and look at a few words that most people consider standard English now.
This English word comes from the French automne. Granted, autumn is falling out of favour, and fall seems to be everyone’s favourite now.
Even though this word came to English from the Spanish or Portuguese, it probably has African origins, most likely from the Wolof word banaana. Speaking of Wolof, another English word we borrowed from them was nyam, which became our yum/yummy.
This popular pastime derives its name from the Spanish word barbacoa, which itself is borrowed from the Taíno language.
Beef shares a similar etymology as the French boeuf, deriving from the Old French boef.
Interestingly, English has several words with French origins that refer to cuts of meat from domestic animals. For example, pig becomes pork (porc), calf becomes veal (veau), sheep becomes mutton (mouton), chicken becomes poultry (poule), and deer becomes venison (venaison).
This uniquely English word evokes images of the American Southwest, with its deserts, buttes, and orange vistas. Canyon, however, is actually an adaptation of the Spanish word cañón. The tilde above the N causes the N to be followed by a Y sound.
What’s more anglophone than chowder? Clam or corn chowder from the east coast of North America is popular among Americans and Canadians. But it’s likely a bastardization of the French word chaudière, which means cauldron or pot, the vessel chowder was originally cooked in. But you will never find anyone correcting a Maritimer, “Uh, actually, it’s clam chaudière.”
Seriously? Ketchup? The perfect barbecue condiment?
Yep. Ketchup—or catsup, as it’s called in some regions — actually has Chinese origins. People speaking the Amoy dialect of Hokkien used 鮭汁 (pronounced as kôe-chiap or kê-chiap) to refer to a mixture of pickled fish and spices. English explorers eventually picked it up and modified to the word we use today to refer to the sauce made from tomato paste.
The main ingredient in such popular treats as lemonade and lemon meringue pie may be Arabic in origin, adapted from the Arabic word for citrus: līmūn.
Potato is another English word of Taíno origins, coming from the Taíno word for sweet potato: batata.
This word is an anglicized form of several words found throughout the Pacific islands. For example, in Samoan, Tahitian, and Tongan, the word is tatau; and in Marquesan, it’s tatu. I actually have 4 tattoos myself.
I think I’ll stop at 10, but you can find dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of words that have been borrowed from other languages than anglicized to make it our own.
All this to say that maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on people who use walla. They might be ahead of the trend.
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