Loanwords

LET’S TALK

Fusion, in the kitchen, is the mixing of cuisines (ingredients and preparatory methods) from differing or foreign cultures. From this marriage emerges an entirely new “blended” eating experience. This mix has the ability to ignite interest and excite bored and demanding palettes the world over. Indian spices in an Italian dish or a mixture of French and Japanese cuisine offer alternative flavors as well as innovative visual presentation that can, at times, outshine the original.

Similarly, vocabulary from foreign lands has also entered the English language and there remained; universally accepted and permanently on loan; at times replacing its counterpart. Some vocabulary arrived via immigration and other through importation. From the Spanish language we took siesta and plaza, from the Arabic oud and hummus, karaoke from the Japanese, Zeitgeist from the German and, one of my favorite Latin aphorisms, carpe diem, just to name a few.

James Joyce’s “le most juste” further explains in part, in my opinion, why we choose the foreign word versus the national equivalent (if it exists). Joyce believed it was necessary to take the time to find the absolutely right word to unequivocally express one’s thoughts. Only by doing so, could one best convey not just the meaning of the word, but also its exact spirit; its essence.

For example, one could argue that the term “cul de sac” is far more forceful and visually compelling than the term “dead end”. This of course is debatable depending on the context (do you want to express no way out, no escape or leading nowhere etc…) and to what degree (are you speaking of something temporary or permanent etc…).

Let’s get a conversation going by substituting English words in favor of french ones in the below excerpt. You decide which is le mot juste in your opinion and why. Then, let’s talk.

I first spotted them, by accident, one day at the Cafe Rizzoli. They were semi tucked away in a corner booth, tête-à-tête as lovers do. I suppose I should have tried harder to dissuade her from that ill advised liaison. She had been so depressed after losing Sam that I couldn’t bring myself to cause her further pain. Sam had been her raison d’être and without him nothing made sense and life wasn’t worth living. So, listening to her go on and on about this new guy, her eyes shiny and wide, her cheeks bright and pink, I just didn’t have the heart to point out that allowing a playboy par excellence to sweep her off her feet might not have been the wisest choice. I have to give it to him though, his timing was impeccable. He materialized right when she was about to give up. With his chic look and confident savoir faire; that certain je ne sais quoi that made him thrillingly irresistible, she had no defences. With his green eyes and that million dollar smile, in less than a month, she had given him carte blanche, albeit unknowingly, to take total advantage of her

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