Sunday 7 March 2021


Describing the route wherein a word travels from its originating language to a second foreign one and is re-introduced with a nuanced meaning from the first, reborrowing occurs in a wide range of languages through various processes—some simple and straightforward in cases of etymological twinning like host and guest, warranty and guarantee, ward and guardian all French influences as the diglossia between stable and table (drab, dirty cows and pigs to beef and pork) or calquing—that is, adopting a foreign term directly as was the case with off-the-shelf fashions translated first in French as prêt-á-porter in the early 1950s and then reclaimed by English speakers a few years later. Other migrating words take more circuitous round-trips and one can imagine future scenarios with blended meanings. The German term for a tuxedo—ein Smoking from smoking jacket comes to mind (similiarly a frock coat or redingote crisscrossed the Channel several times) and other examples include the Dutch derivation of cookie (from koekje) and the Dutch word cookie for the web-browser token as well as the Japanese borrowing of the English term animation as アニメ (anime) and then readopted in English to indicate a particular style of animation from Japan. Conversely, e-mail as with regular mail comes from the French “malle-post,” though the French word email already carried the meaning enamel and so employ un courriel from courrier électronique first coined in bi-lingual Quebec and formally made part of the parlancesoon there after.