Monday, November 21, 2016

Anglish: The English Language at its "Purest"

The English language has been on one hell of a journey. It's a Germanic language, but it's got plenty of loanwords from other languages. Over half of the vocabulary comes from French, Latin, and Greek. But what if it didn't? What if the only words we used came from Germanic and Anglo-Saxon roots?

This is how we get Anglish, English but without any "foreign" words. Sometimes it's also called Root English, as it's English going back to its roots. The thing is, Anglish can't be elegent, it can only be swanky. So how did we get here?

Some Greek and Latin words entered Old English thanks to Christianity and the Norman invasion in the 11th Century meant the upper echelons of society spoke French, giving words with French roots more prestige than their Anglo-Saxon equivalents.

This didn't become an issue until the 16th and 17th centuries when Middle English was becoming Modern English. Some writers at the time borrowed words with Latin roots, since Latin was used in academia, in order to sound fancy. Other writers hated the pointlessness of using words that already had perfectly adequate English equivalents with Anglo-Saxon roots.

Of course, some of the words borrowed into English around this time are still commonly used, like dismiss, celebrate, encyclopedia, commit, capacity and ingenious. Others disappeared from use as quickly as they were introduced, such as expede.

A fine specimen for birdlorists.
In the 19th Century, the writer William Barnes went so far as to create his own Anglo-Saxon words as counterparts to the commonly used Latin ones. Barnes preferred using the word birdlore to ornithology and was much more bendsome (flexible) in his use of a pure English language. Overkill, perhaps?

George Orwell wasn't a fan of writers using Latin words either. In fact, he went so far to say that "Bad writers [...] are haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones".

Personally, I don't think we need to avoid all Latin and Greek words, the English language has some beautiful words thanks to these languages (and their derivatives). However, I don't automatically think you're fancy because you use Latin words, there's nothing wrong with Anglo-Saxon and Germanic words, either!

What do you think? Shall we keep English "pure" or do you like our elegant Latin and Greek words? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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