Meeting of Cultures

With the great influx of people from Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland to the United Kingdom many commentators believe the English language could be set for its next great ‘dose’ of new words.

As we all know, the English language has survived through its amazing capacity to change and evolve. First, the native Britons were conquered by the Romans who brought Latin with them, the Brits were then subdued by the Normans who brought with them Norman French. Imperialism may have left the English mark on other countries but English also picked up a host of words from other languages, words like “pukka”, “juggernaut” or “kosher”.

A survey of words by Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff estimated the origin of English words as:

  • French and Old Norman: 28.3%
  • Latin: 28.24%
  • Other Germanic languages: 25%
  • Greek: 5.32%
  • No etymology given: 4.03%
  • Derived from proper names: 3.28%
  • All other languages contributed less than 1%

Another survey by Joseph M. Williams gave:

  • French: 41%
  • “Native” English: 33%
  • Latin: 15%
  • Danish: 2%
  • Dutch: 1%
  • Other: 10%

Now that nearly a million Poles have swollen the population of the United Kingdom, will British English be ready to accept some Polish words? What words will they be?

12 Responses to “Meeting of Cultures”

  1. aggie Says:

    I think that they have already accepted ‘pierogi’ and ‘bigos’.It would be fantastic if all Britons were able to say and write correctly a word ‘zachachmęcić’ or ‘gżegżółka’…

  2. transubstantiation Says:

    That would be truly amazing.

  3. jack shemryck Says:

    [i]Bigos[/i] and [i]pierogi[/i] are already used in the UK. Recently, The Economist has used the word [i]uklad[/i] in relation to Kaczynski’s view of Poland.

  4. transubstantiation Says:

    This forced use of words like “układ” is an attempt by journalists to make corruption sound exotic.

  5. Jimbo Says:

    Kielbasa and pierog appear to have been accepted wholeheartedly into American English; have seen them used without comment in US newspapers, blogs etc.

    I’d like to know when we’ll absorb załatwiac and kombinowac into English! Then we’ll know that the influence has really taken root…😉

    Although in my nearly-hometown of Bournemouth, southern England, the most commonly used Polish words at the moment seems to be ‘Polski sklep’…🙂

  6. transubstantiation Says:

    “Polski sklep”. Food lexis always seem to be the first to shift over…

  7. Marta K. Says:

    I have spent last two summer holidays in Edinburgh, Scotland. This city is really full of Poles. The most common words visible on the streets are “Delikatesy”, “Polskie delikatesy” or “Pol Deli”, “Polski sklep”. The only Polish restaurant run by a Polish guy is called “Bigos”. Common Polish words the Scots recognize are: “piwo” (they know the names such as: tyskie, zywiec),”kielbasa”; surnames of Polish football players (Boruc and Zurawski)and words such as: czesc, dzien dobry, do widzenia.. and frequently heard… swearings.

  8. transubstantiation Says:

    Interesting that you mention how, again, food terms are becoming (or have become) known. As for expletives… it is hardly surprising as again, these are terms commonly used by all groups and populations.

  9. malina Says:

    I could not believe how some words are now being used🙂

  10. transubstantiation Says:

    It would be interesting to see how ‘kielbasa’ and other such words are used in the UK, if there has been an extension of meaning.

  11. Englische Frischzellenkur « Holtz-Stosch GmbH - Stuttgart: Language and Translation Services for International Business Communication Says:

    […] an der Reihe. Einen interessanten Überblick über die Herkunft der englischen Wörter bietet transsubstantiation. Die nächste Welle neuer Wörter im Englischen dürfte von den Polen ausgehen, da mittlerweile […]


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