Dollar has big effect at word show
Published 04/04/2013 | 00:16
Zombie, booze and dollar are three of the words featured in a new exhibition revealing the global reach of English, with many of our favourites originating overseas.
The British Council has released a list of words to mark the opening of The English Effect - a major new exhibition at its London headquarters exploring the power, impact and value of the English language around the world.
One of the exhibition's three zones is dedicated to the words that English has absorbed from other languages, reflecting the many countries and cultures with which it has come into contact throughout history.
Dollar tops the list. The word - which is synonymous with America's financial might - actually entered the English language from German.
It originates from the word Taler, which was a shortened form of Joachimstaler - a coin first minted in 1519 from the silver of a mine in the town of Joachimsthal.
Despite the urban myth that the word bungalow was coined when a builder was told to "bung a low roof" on a property after running out of bricks, the word originated in the Bengal region, where it was a name for one-storey homes built for early European immigrants, originally meaning "belonging to Bengal".
Booze has its origins in the medieval Dutch busen, which means "to drink to excess" - and was first used in English by the thieves and beggars of the 1500s before spreading to the wider population. Zombie and vampire - staples of many modern films - have their roots in West Africa and Hungary respectively.
John Worne, director of strategy at the British Council, said: "Many of our most popular and evocative English words - words we couldn't live without - came from other countries and cultures. When we look at their roots, we get a fascinating insight into how the language has been influenced throughout its history.
"English is not just 'our' language - it truly belongs to the whole world, and brings real benefits to anyone who can speak it. Even a few words can bring work, a job or new opportunities."
The English Effect exhibition, which is free, runs until Saturday June 29.
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