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Foreign Phrases Used In English


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I always liked that the native English speakers used French phrases like "faux pas" and "bourgeois", but I often wonder why they naturally somehow got integrated into the language without being translated. Anyone have an idea of why this is? Also, share some more examples if you have them.  :wink:

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I think the reason we may have foreign phrases in the English language is because sometimes the foreign phrase has nuances of meaning that can't be captured fully in English.  And thus, people, in recognizing that don't attempt to translate the word or phrase but use it as is.

Here are a few of my favorite foreign phrases that I think would exemplify that.   

French: 

joie de vivre

déjà vu

liaison

milieu

Italian:

fiasco

diva

German:

Zeitgeist

Blitzkrieg

You can say them in English but it takes so many more words to try to explain the meaning.

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One I find myself using maybe a little too regularly is "je ne sais quoi", which means "I don't know what" in French. In English you use it to describe that someone has a particular or distinctive quality that you can't quite put into words.

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Wow, I had no idea that some of these words were purely foreign, especially diva, liaison, and doppelganger (this one should really have been more obvious to me though). Also, I'm learning a lot more of the ones I've missed, I always thought the well known ones like "deja vu" were it.

I think "joie de vivre" and "Raison d'être" are my new favorite discoveries, I'll try to remember them for next time. Thanks a lot so far, guys, seriously, and keep them coming for anyone who still has examples please!

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Cultural diversity/history/not really having a word for that thing. One perfect example I can come up with is the word we use for "paper containing a brief history of your employment and skills", either Curriculum Vitae or résumé, borrowed from Latin and French respectively (and neither of which are ever pronounced correctly). It's strange since the names of most "modern" inventions typically end up being borrowed letter for letter in other languages, FROM English, and not the other way.

Even if it's a foreign invention with a name from another language, we end up making it "more English", which then becomes the standard.

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I think words from foreign languages get put into English because English was developed in England but the main point is it's in Europe. It is literally right next to a bunch of other European languages like French from France and Spanish from Spain. Is there a coincidence between that distance between countries? Probably.

The phrase I see a lot that gets used in my governmental studies was "coup d'tat," which means a revolt against an established governmental institution.

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Considering that America is a melting pot of primarily European culture, a lot of foreign-like phrases will be embedded into the English language. A lot of really good phrases have been said, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned the ultimate Italian phrase!

'Carpe Diem' - Seize the day

I had a history teacher that was obsessed with this phrase. Every time he would talk about a historical battle, he'd end it with someone seizing the day. Obviously he'd butcher the phrase to fit past tense. But overall, it is definitely used among many.

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I had an interest in film [was actually a student learning about film-making] and these phrases were didn't sound that foreign:

avant-garde

It's got to do with the use of new techniques in art [any of the fields]

mise-en-scene

arrangement of scenery and properties to represent the place where a play or movie is enacted or in short, the set.

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The story I have always heard goes back to the Roman Invasion of England.  Roman soldiers would use their words for many things, but when talking about food or other things native to the English, they would use their words (either lacking a word in Latin or just for ease of communication).  Given that the language of Court was French for a long period in the Middle Ages, French words aren't surprising to be in the English language. 

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One I find myself using maybe a little too regularly is "je ne sais quoi", which means "I don't know what" in French. In English you use it to describe that someone has a particular or distinctive quality that you can't quite put into words.

Wow, I didn't know it meant "I don't know what" in French. I wonder why the divergence in meaning occurred in the United States.

I have no idea why, but I really like au contraire. I just like the way it sounds.

I say the word ciao almost every day. I have been saying it for years. I also love the way it sounds. Plus it sounds so much classier than goodbye. I know it means hello too, but I don't use it that way.

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"C'est la vie" is a common French phrase used in English. As far as individual words go, English borrows from many, many languages. "Mosquito" has Spanish origins. "Golem" comes from Hebrew. "Schnitzel" is from Germany, though cuisine might not be the most relevant to this topic. 

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Also, the Latin things like Ad Hoc, Ad Infinitum, Et Cetera.

I didn't know ad hoc was latin, I never thought about that before, and I was especially surprised by et cetera!

Also, putting up a few that I thought up the other day:

fiancee

&

et tu

:clown:

I'm learning so much thanks guys!

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I have a feeling that "forte" is a word with roots in French. I would be very surprised if that is not the case.

Yes "forte" is borrowed from French, and as such, ultimately it has Latin roots, "fortis."

I particularly like "forte" as an expression in English as it means something one excels at, but, as in the case of many of these phrases, it's the simple elegance of being able to say several words with just one. 

As for Latin words, there are also -- from the academic world -- the honors that one can graduate with:

cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude.

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Don't forget that although English borrows a lot of its words from other languages, it is sometimes different from what they mean in that language.

For example:

  • English: Entrée = main plate
  • French: Entrée = starter/appetizer

Besides phrases used in English, we can still see many roots of English words from other languages. Sometimes they are the same in definition and sometimes they are different. That's why other languages have cognates that English speakers can use to learn easier. Unfortunately, there are also often false cognates.

This definitely represents invasions, wars, or migrations that intermixed several languages. English itself is a Germanic language (Anglo-Saxon), but it borrows so heavily from French. Mostly, Latin and Greek make up much of the roots which is why we find so much similarity between the Romance languages and English.

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One foreingn phrase that gets used alot in my country is the Latin word "bona fide" which means genuine.It is generally used when talking about ones best friend :grin:.

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I love it - I mean sure, English is complicated enough already, ,but it just adds a bit of flavour to the language, to be brutally honest. It's nice having those phrases in everyday conversations! Sorry, I don't currently have an example.

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I have a feeling that "forte" is a word with roots in French. I would be very surprised if that is not the case.

Not sure about that. Italian, Spanish or Portuguese would be a better origin, because the French don't really have the "e" in the end and it would weird for English to add it out of nowhere.

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