English is the JavaScript of spoken languages.

Just think about it:

- it's extremely wide-spread for historical reasons;

- it is a somewhat random mash-up of at least three other languages;

- as much as all languages have their idiosyncrasies , it tends to have the more confusing ones.



- If you block English in your browser, the Internet seems like a somewhat empty place.

Though, more seriously, I'll add with my linguist-hat on, in terms of its linguistic properties, English isn't particularly weirder or more idiosyncratic than any other language. (Orthography aside, which isn't itself language but a language "add-on".)

@emacsomancer ah now you're cherry-picking.

The fact that one cannot reasonably clearly think about how a word is spoken based on how it's written (or vice-versa) is a huge deal. And I am ready to die on that hill! 😉

@rysiek @emacsomancer

A lot depends on which language a word was borrowed from, and when. For instance; "chief" and "chef" both have the same french word as their root, but they entered English more than a century apart. During that time the pronunciation of "ch" in French changed.

As one of my English teachers used to say; "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them out, then goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

@HMLivy @rysiek

on the origin of the quote, see: paulingraham.com/loose-grammar

on the general topic: part of the oddity of English spelling is that words from (esp. other European languages) tend to be borrowed with and retain their original spelling (modulo accents etc. in many cases).

@HMLivy @rysiek

On the quote, I'll note that English isn't actually particularly unique here, nor even an extreme.

Hindi/Urdu is a voracious borrower too, with heaps of Perso-Arabic vocabulary.

Albanian's vocabulary is more than 90% borrowings.

And Armenian retains only about 1,500 words from Classical Armenian, the rest being borrowed vocabulary

Etc., etc.

@emacsomancer @frank87 @HMLivy also, a fascinating thing I learned a while ago (and please correct me if this is untrue):

The word for "tea" in a language often depends on whether it got there via land or sea route. Sea route leads to some variation of "tea"/"tee", etc; land route -- to some variation of "chai".

Polish for "tea" is "herbata". 👀

@rysiek Roughly true, though it's more tied to the particular region of China the traders were mainly in contact with (3 main: "cha" - Cantonese; "tea" - Min Chinese; and then another "cha" from northern Chinese, who the Persian traded with and added an Persian ending, thus "chai").

English actually has all three forms, though "tea" is the most general; but of course "chai" exists now too (referring to Indian-style spiced tea); and the British traded enough tea to have also acquired the "cha" form early on: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cha#Ety

@frank87 @HMLivy

@emacsomancer I'd known that.

I only just now realised that the "cha' in "kombucha" must be from "chai" for "tea".

And it is:

In Japanese, the terms konbu-cha and kobu-cha (昆布茶, "kelp tea") refer to a kelp tea made with powdered konbu (an edible kelp from the family Laminariaceae)...


Apparently the Japanese form differing from the fermented kombucha most of us know.

@rysiek @frank87 @HMLivy

#OccasionalEtymology #tea #chai #kombucha #kelp #japanese

@dredmorbius or at least from one of the (non-Persianised) "cha" forms. (That is, this "-cha" and "chai" share a common source.)

@rysiek @frank87 @HMLivy


@emacsomancer @dredmorbius @rysiek @frank87

If anyone is still interested in delving deeper into this ridiculous compendium we call language, I can recommend;

"The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way" by Bill Bryson

It is a fun read. Well, it was for me. YMMV.

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