Poet Carl Sandburg once observed that the "English language hasn't got where it is by being pure." Over the past 1,500 years, our "magnificent bastard tongue" (to borrow John McWhorter's phrase) has picked up words from more than 300 other languages. Although most of our loanwords come from Greek and Latin (often by way of other European languages, especially French), English has enriched its word-hoard without undue regard for national origin.
Here's a quiz to test your knowledge of where our words came from. Match the 20 words listed below with the languages they were "borrowed" from. (Cultural clues should make the task a bit easier.) You'll find the answers on page two.
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Languages & Language Families
(a) Japanese (b) Scottish (c) Dutch (d) Persian (e) Malay (f) Tongan (g) Hungarian (h) Micmac [the Algonquian language Lnuísimk] (i) Arabic (j) Yiddish (k) German (l) Italian (m) Portuguese (n) Spanish (o) Norwegian (p) Tagalog [Philippines] (q) Inuit [Canadian Eskimo] (r) Bantu (s) Turkish (t) Swedish
Answers to the quiz are on page two.
To learn more about the ways in which words enter our language, see Introduction to Etymology: Word Histories.