Friday, June 7, 2013

Finding Posh Words In English

English owes a lot to French. Thanks to William the Conqueror and the Norman conquest, French became the language of the aristocrats, whilst the serfs spoke English when they weren't toiling in the fields.

As a result of this blatant class division and accompanying linguistic division, the English language has a tendency to use words of Latin and French origin in a higher register than those with Anglo-Saxon and Germanic origins.

This cow hopes to never become beef.
This is very obvious when it comes to food. A lot of languages use the same word for the animal as they do the meat, just like the English word "chicken". However, in English another animal is referred to as a "cow", which has its roots in Anglo-Saxon, while its meat is referred to as "beef", which can be seen to share similarities with the French word boeuf. Coincidence? Hardly.

"Pig" follows the same pattern. The serfs referred to the animal thus and those who were lucky enough to enjoy it called it "pork", or porc in French.

Whilst the farmers all spoke the Germanic languages, the rich remained with French. This can be seen in many words that are considered to be of a formal register. Why "start" something when you could just as easily "commence"? Why not hang out with your "entourage"?

Do you know any posh words that came into English from French? Leave them in the comments below!

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