Un brushing or eine Afterhour are words that seem, at first glance, to come from the same place as ‘Royale with Cheese’; English words incorporated into another language with the minimum of fuss. However, these two examples do not have the exact same meaning as their English language counterparts; they are pseudo-anglicisms. These can be either portmanteaus or words appropriated for a different meaning. For example, unless you know, ‘Un brushing‘ might seem obvious, but in fact ‘Un brushing’ involves blow drying, rather than merely dragging a comb through one’s hair.
These new words and terms can have an almost childlike naivety – a sense of fun if you like – such as, for example, the Danish for carrycot being babylift. There’s a long-term movement of English into other languages, with a term losing syllables over the years as words diverge but meanings remain. This produces a dissonance, a sense of detachment, in terms such as body rental, which is an Italian term for hiring a temp.
French and German language institutions are not huge fans of pseudo-anglicisms, or indeed anglicisms full stop, especially where a perfectly good word exists in their own language for the same term. Also, there is the simple fact that in using these phrases some Europeans’ speech may sound a bit clumsy to native English language speakers. However, in Britain we do the same thing frequently enough; a latte in Italy is just a glass of milk, and ooh la la can mean ‘Oh dear’. Let’s be honest too; all languages combine and use words and phrases from others. How many native English speakers say they are ‘going to the loo’ without realising the (French) origins of that particular phrase?
Language does provoke strong emotions at times. However, for all of us who love it, we know It has never been at static thing – even when institutions try to force it to conform to their conventions. Words will change, but the way they change can be shaped. That’s true, but while the institutions that act to guard their languages will do what they can to preserve the linguistic purity of their particular mother tongue, the people – the great unwashed that we are – will also mould words, foreign or indeed our own, in ways that the good and the great don’t always like. As the Latin phrase has it, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ Perhaps that’s what makes languages such fun!
Rosetta Stone, Global Connects