December 30, 2008
Naming Czars in US Politics Follows Time Tested Linguistic Tradition
On Monday Ben Zimmer finally came out and asked "how did a term for Russian royalty work its way into American government?" He was referring to, of course, the many "czars" that seem to populate American politics.
Despite its Russian origins, it is really no surprise to see czar crossing over into American politics. The vocabulary of our world is becoming increasingly less restricted by language boundaries.
As more and more words extend beyond their native borders, terms once confined to a specific heritage and usage are finding new identities in other tongues. Take the Russian avtomobil as one example of an English word, automobile, that has found a new home in Russian.
This is not the first time that a foreign word has become commonplace in American culture. Ever wonder why we don't just call pork, pig meat, well, maybe its because the French word "porc" sounded a lot more elegant.
In fact, the vast majority of the English language today is not from Old English, but instead from many other languages, most notably French as a result of the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
TrackBack URL for this entry: