Lexical borrowing from modern European languages


Sources include OED analysis by former students JRS and ZP—thanks!


Fields? see Millward and the encyclopedia articles by Jurcic, Schwarz, and Ward for generalizations

§       French includes arts, fashion, food

§       Italian includes trade, architecture, the arts (musical terms esp.)

§       Spanish/Portuguese often the medium for “many of our terms for the exotic products and life-forms found in the Far East and the New World”


Today: use some specific examples to illustrate general concepts


Remember requirements for borrowing

§       some bilingualism

§       projected gain (linguistic/objective or social/subjective)


Let’s look at hors d’œuvres

§       not thoroughly adapted to English spelling! I had to use the ‘symbol’ chart to get the <oe> ligature

§       italicized in all OED quotations: still felt to be foreign?

o      marked with || as not naturalized (do you agree, though?)

o      certainly hard to spell for many anglophones


Origin: French phrase meaning ‘outside (the) work’


First came in with a meaning closer to this ‘[something] out of the ordinary course of things’

§       adverb: Addison’s Spectator 1714 “The Frenzy of one who is given up for a Lunatick, is a French hors d’œuvre, something which is singular in its kind”

o      notice that it’s glossed (for his wannabe audience?)


§       noun: Walpole, letter (1783): “This is a hors d’œuvre, nor do I know a word of news”


But that meaning has been superseded by the specific meaning we’re now familiar with: “an item of food served as a relish to whet the appetite”

§       between the courses of a meal or before it as an appetizer (c19th)

§       instead of a meal: at a cocktail reception, etc.


OED quotations imply pretension (and the second one perhaps anticipates inevitable pejoration? need to see context)


 1742 POPE Dunc. IV. 317 He..Try'd all hors-d'{oe}uvres, all liqueurs defin'd, Judicious drank, and greatly-daring din'd.

1771 SMOLLETT Humph. Cl. 8 Aug., I have seen turnips make their appearance, not as a dessert, but by way of hors d'{oe}uvres, or whets.

1898 Pall Mall Mag. Jan. 85 The more unpalatable is an hors d'{oe}uvre [to him], the more fashionable is the dinner which it precedes.
More elevated than whet “something that whets the appetite; chiefly, light refreshment taken as an appetizer or to stave off hunger till the next meal”


1769 MRS. RAFFALD Engl. Housekpr. (1778) 139 To make a nice Whet before Dinner. Cut some slices of bread.., fry them in butter, [etc.].

1852 W. JERDAN Autobiogr. I. xxiii. 189 He..swallowed his two dozen of green oysters as a whet, and proceeded to dine.

But whet mostly denoted an appetizer in the form of a small draught of liquor; a dram, a drink (cf. wet).”

1688 SHADWELL Sqr. Alsatia II. 23 Let's whett; bring some Wine. Come on; I love a Whett.

1741 RICHARDSON Pamela (1785) III. 360 They whipt out two Bottles of Champaigne instantly, for a Whet, as they called it.

-interesting that “sarvant” Pamela isn’t familiar with the concept: can we infer therefore that whet isn’t a ‘low’ word?


Integration: figurative use
fig. 1877 L. W. M. LOCKHART Mine is Thine xiii, Art and literature were for him the hors d'{oe}uvres of life.

Let’s look at connoisseur

§       from French (now spelled connaisseur)

§       ultimately from Latin cognoscitor-em (from cognoscere): “one who knows a subject thoroughly”


Cognate with cognoscente (sg.), cognoscenti (pl.)

§       “a discerning expert”, “one who knows a subject thoroughly; a connoisseur; chiefly in reference to the fine arts”

o      1778: “The cognoscenti allow that Ireland is a school of music”

o      1862: “Turner neglected by the rich cognoscenti of the day”


Seems to have come in with two senses

§       original “somebody well versed in a subject” (OED obs.)

o      a1734: “no ordinary connoisseur in the sciences”

§       specialized: “an expert judge in matters of taste”, “a person knowledgeable in one of the fine arts and competent to judge”

o      1719: “Two Discourses on the Art of Criticism, as it relates to Painting and the Sciences of a Connoisseur”

§       why not use critic or judge?

·       prestige of French

·       association of France with art, neoclassicism


Its users’ knowledge of French made it easy to integrate?

§       early uses not glossed

§       spelling difficult but not too variable

o      a few errors? connoissuers (1796, in a quotation extending it from art to cider)

§       interesting that the error is in this example!

o      can we infer from the relative accuracy of the spelling that its users tend to know their written French?


Has generalized from art to “other matters of taste”

§       cider (1796), (1834) “Merton was a connoisseur in ladies’ dress”

§       anything connoting “refinement, culture”... (from web)

o      cannabis, Low-carb connoisseur, cigars, wines

o      cars, Caribbean islands, cruises, koi, sundials, Web connoisseur


Occasionally used as a verb (more current in early 19th century?)

§       a1821: ‘a connoisseuring look’

§       a1828: ‘connoisseured out of his senses’

Lexercise: let’s look at sherry


What language is it from? (Spanish)


What’s the etymon? (Xeres) How was it pronounced in the c16th ? (/š/)


Semantic field: it’s a specific kind of white wine

§       sack “a general name for a class of white wines formerly imported from Spain and the Canaries”

§       sherris = sherris sacke originally “the still white wine made near Xeres”

1597 SHAKES. 2 Hen. IV (Qo. 1600) IV. iii. 104 A good sherris sacke hath a two fold operation in it.

1597 SHAKES. 2 Hen. IV, IV. iii. 111 The second propertie of your excellent Sherris, is, the warming of the Blood:..the Sherris warmes it, and makes it course from the inwards, to the parts extremes.

-can we infer that sherris and sherris sacke are interchangeable for this speaker?


Do these early examples show ‘adoption’ (pronunciation)? ‘adaptation’ (spelling)?


How was the word subsequently adapted? (back-formed singular sherry from reanalysis of sherris as plural)

1608 MIDDLETON Mad World v. H1, Some Shirry for my Lords players there


What were the C17th spellings? sherry, shirry, shery, sherree

§       more oral borrowing (no attempt to replicate Spanish place name)

§       variation also reflects state of English spelling, e.g.

o      double consonants <r> / <rr>

o      final <-y> / <-ee> / <-ie>


Motive: need or prestige?

§       commercial need: distinguish particular product or class of sack

§       prestige of foreign name (source of superior product)

1614 B. JONSON Barth. Fair V. iv, Cok. Sack? you said but e'en now it should be Sherry. Pvp. Io. Why so it is; sherry, sherry, sherry.


Process of nativization

§       immediately compounded with sack

§       used figuratively (once)

  fig. 1619 Pasquils Palinodia title-p., A pleasant pynte of Poeticall Sherry.

§       more recently, generalized to denote fortified wines similar to those of Xeres

o      made in Spain

o      made elsewhere (usually signified with a prefixed word,i.e. Cape Sherry)

o      . 1967 Times 1 Aug. 6/5 ‘Sherry’ means a wine coming from the Jerez district of Spain. The Court, giving judgment,..decided that it would be unjust now to restrain Vine Products Ltd...from using the expressions ‘British sherry’, ‘English sherry’, ‘Cyprus sherry’, ‘South African sherry’, and ‘Australian sherry’, used for certain wines in England.

-cf. champagne vs sparkling white wine, cognac vs. brandy


Rendezvous is from French, ultimately from the imperative plural meaning ‘present or betake yourselves’


It entered English in the 1590s

·       as a military term, denoting a place appointed for assembling troops (or ships)

o      1591 Our army was marched, within a myle of Roan, where the rendevous was appointed

o      1732 It was highly necessary to have a place of arms, a place of defence, and a rendezvous

·       but also in more general use denoting a place for meeting

o      1594 A tauerne is the Randeuous, the Exchange, the staple for good fellows

o      1613 The bed is the best Rendevou of mankind

o      1711 Steele Spectator The Coffee-house is the Place of Rendezvous to all that live near it

·        a meeting held by arrangement’ (i.e. not just the place)


[Dead-end meaning of ‘place of retreat or refuge’ (not for meeting)

·       1596 A Randeuous, a Home to flye vnto]


Semantic subtleties

·       newer (but historical) specialized sense: “pre-arranged meeting and docking of two or more spacecraft

o      1959 “Many proposed space missions will require achieving rendezvous of two bodies in an orbit about a planet”

·       military origins of space program?

·       technological challenge: positive focus on meetings?

·       researchers’ involvement: personification of spacecraft


Wildly varying spellings

·       oral borrowing

·       general borrowing

o      ignorance of French and its morphology

§       rende(z),vou(s)

·       challenge of representing the nasal vowel (Ran-, Ren-)


Foreign affixes: a case study of –eer (engineer, volunteer)


You can borrow

§       words

§       affixes: -eer is a case study of one mildly productive one


Suffix –eer an Anglicization of French –ier (itself from Latin

–iarius > -ary)

·       forms nouns from other nouns

·       sense “person concerned with or engaged in”

o      except for a few words like gazetteer and muffineer “device for putting sugar on muffins”


First found in loanwords from French in the C16th

·       interchangeable with –ier: muletier/muleteer (and tons of other forms: -er, -our...)

·       though charioteer and engineer come in earlier (ME engineour) and get assimilated to –ier, -eer


In C17th, -eer and –ier become distinct: brigadier, grenadier, gondolier


And –eer starts to be productive within English

·       privateer “armed vessel (and its commander) owned and officered by private individuals holding a government commission and authorized for war service”

·       though mostly with Romance forms


Many early examples have military connotations: cannoneer, volunteer


Extends to non-physical forms of combat: pulpiteer, pamphleteer

o      derogatory context

o      ironic hyperbole?


And can be derogatory without denoting combat : waistcoateer ‘prostitute’, profiteer


But some words are neither derogatory nor agonistic: auctioneer, mountaineer


Tends to occur with –ing (and occasionally to be backformed from these forms)

·       engineering, pamphleteering

·       parliamenteering, revolutioneering (OED has no entry for revolutioneer)