Posted by: coastcontact | December 23, 2012

Invasion of Other Languages into the United States

American English is a conglomeration of word used in other languages. An article in The Week magazine dated December 7, 2012 titled “Why we’re speaking British” caught my attention.  The author pointed out that all of sudden we are using phrases like “spot on”, “ chattering classes”,  and “going missing” that have recently been adopted by commentators and reporters.

We haven’t adopted all of the English expressions.  “Way Out” is used on exit signs.  You rarely see the word “exit.”  Canadians have “washrooms” although they do know the word “restroom” and “toilet.”

Here is a list of some words commonly used in the United States.  French, Spanish and Yiddish words are predominate in my vocabulary.

adios, Spanish – ‘adiós’ meaning “goodbye”

aficionado, French – ‘amateur’ “unprofessional person” or “affection” too.

à la carte, French – In restaurants it refers to ordering individual dishes rather than a fixed-price meal.

à la mode, French – the phrase is used to describe a dessert with an accompanying scoop of ice cream (example: apple pie à la mode).

amigo, Spanish and/or Portugueseamigo, “friend”; from Latin amicus meaning “friend,” derived from amare (to love).

bagel, Yiddish – a ring-shaped bread roll made by boiling then baking the dough

ballet, French

barbecue, Chibchabarbacoa (Chibcha , indigenous people of the eastern cordillera of the Andes of Colombia.)

bon voyage, French – literally “good journey”; have a good trip!

breeze, Spanishbrisa “cold northeast wind” or from Frisian briesen – to blow (wind)[

cafeteria, Spanish – cafetería, “coffee store”

cannibal, Spanishcaníbal, alteration of caríbal, from Caribe

canoe, Spanish canoa, from Haitian canaoua

chaparral, Spanishchaparro loosely meaning small evergreen oak, from Basque txapar, “small, short”

chocolate, Spanishchocolate, from Nahuatl xocolatl meaning “hot water” or from a combination of the Mayan word chocol meaning “hot” and the Nahuatl word atl meaning “water.”

chutzpah, Yiddish – nerve, guts, daring, audacity, effrontery

cigarette, Frenchcigarette “little weed”, diminutive of French cigare “stogie”, from Spanish cigarro meaning “fag (UK), stogie, stogy.”

cockroach, Spanishcucaracha

comrade, Frenchcamarade meaning “friend”, from Spanish camarada, “pal, mate”

condor, Spanish – from Quechua cuntur

corral, Spanish – from corral meaning “pen, yard” from Portuguese

coyote, Spanishcoyote, from Nahuatl coyotl

crusade, blend of Middle Frenchcroisade and Spanish cruzada; both ultimately from Latin cruc-, crux cross

cul-de-sac, French – A blind alley or dead end street

ganef or gonif, Yiddish – thief, scoundrel, rascal

glitch, Yiddish – a minor malfunction

klutz, Yiddish – clumsy person

kosher, Yiddish – correct according to Jewish law

kvetch, Yiddish – to complain habitually, gripe; as a noun, a person who always complains

lox, Yiddish – smoked salmon

macho, Spanish – from macho, male, brave, the property of being overtly masculine. In Spanish is masculinity

maven, Yiddish – expert

megillah, Yiddish – a lengthy document or discourse: Production: What are you making, a megillah?

mensch, Yiddish – an upright man or woman; a gentleman; a decent human being

meshuga, Yiddish – crazy

nosh, Yiddish – snack

nudnik, Yiddish – pest, “pain in the neck”, originally from Polish

oy, Yiddish – (exclamation) Oh!; Oy Gutt – Oh (my) God!

renegade,  Spanish – from renegado, “turncoat, heretic, disowned”

schlep, Yiddish – to drag or haul

schlock, Yiddish – A poorly made product or poorly done work, usually quickly thrown together for the appearance of having been done properly; “this writing is schlock.” Something shoddy or inferior.

schmooze, Yiddish – to converse informally, to small talk or chat. Can also be a form of brown-noseing

schmuck, Yiddish – contemptible or foolish person; a jerk; literally means ‘penis’

schnook, Yiddish – an easily imposed-upon or cheated person, a pitifully meek person. a particularly gullible person.

shack, Mexican Spanishjacal meaning “hut”, from Nahuatl xacalli

spritz, Yiddish – A sprinkling or spray of liquid

temblor, Spanish – for trembling, or earthquake; from temblar, to shake, from Vulgar Latin *tremulāre, from Latin tremulus

yenta, Yiddish – a talkative woman; a gossip; a blabbermouth; a scold. Used as the name of the matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof”, who personifies these qualities.



  1. I loved it. So often we forget that we are a mix of so many varied cultures since our inception as a country and that we are enriched by that Just my thoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: