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bonsai

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bonsai

Postby William Hupy » Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:45 am

Apparently this means "tray gardening" in Japanese. My question is this: is this an English word now also? We did not really borrow this word. We share it. There are so many other Japanese words that we all know and use. When does a foreign word become English?
Here is a sampling of Japanese words we know and use: haiku, kabuki, karaoke, origami, tycoon, kimono, hibachi, panko, ramen, sake, sashimi, sukiyaki, sushi, tempura, tofu (originally Chinese but entered English through Japanese), wasabi, shogun, judo, jujutsu, karate, sumo, futon, geisha, kamikaze, koi, kudzu. There are many more.
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Re: bonsai

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:00 pm

William: Happily, yes. These are all English words of Japanese origin. Karaoke is a slight exception. It is not fully Japanese because the second syllable "oke" is from the European word "orchestra". But the word was certainly cobbled together with the Japanese "kara" in Japan. I have mentioned karaoke as a possible Good Word. You have noted tofu as an exception in origin. Japanese may have borrowed some other of these words, but on scanning them, I don’t notice any. You did not mention some Japanese words we have as cognates in English that were not originated in Japan. Typhoon is an example. It is suspected to be of Arabic origin. I am glad you mentioned kudzu, the bane of our southern states. Not every borrowing is beneficial.

When a foreign word is used in English with the frequency that the words you mentioned are used, then, we have adopted it and it is now English. The English user gets the credit for baptizing the foreign word and converting it to English.

There a few words in your list that I do not have occasion to use, so they are not actually in my vocabulary, but they are English if they are used in English. Borrowing is a major source for words. Most of the common words we use are not borrowed, but the vast majority of English words are borrowed or adapted from foreign words. Think, Greek, Latin and French for the most of them. Explore the world of languages for the rest of them. One could say that the only English words that are not borrowed are the words we inherited from our original Germanic source. Since English is a Germanic language we can sort of claim our early Germanic words as native English. Get right down to it, and we have no “native” English words. Of course this is true for most other languages, but it is paramount in English, making English the greatest artifact that mankind has ever produced.
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Re: bonsai

Postby Slava » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:13 am

A note on what is English or not. If we quibble about just what is English or some other language, we will get lost in history.

One of the most reliable ways to decide on the acceptance of a foreign word into English is how professionals use it. If it is in italics, the author feels the word is not yet fully adopted, though it is most likely understood. A lack of italics indicates the author feels the general reader will know what the word means.

Many words have come into English essentially unchanged from their transliterations. They are accepted, but their origins are also recognized.
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Re: bonsai

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:03 pm

Slava's description of when a word becomes English is a popular one among scholars. Not being academic, I have a slightly different take on when a word is an English word. I think I follow the rule of most dictionary making. A word with adequate English usage that can be verified in conversations, publications, on film, TV, videos, etc., whether or not some authoritative école has baptized it, is an English word. I know the word adequate can be a slippery slope. I am aware that some writers put words in italics that they question as being authentic English words. There may be some gray area in the English word store. I choose to err on the side of tolerance.
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Re: bonsai

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:28 pm

Not long ago someone on AA proposed that meaning should come from ancient etymology, an impossibility IMHO. Probably its a gradual evolution of use. I do remember the first summer 30 years ago that I heard the word "dork" from my teen-age daughter. Soon I heard it everywhere to the point I wondered whether she invented it, and the word spread from her?
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Re: bonsai

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:20 pm

Dork is still alive and well. Gnarly, a slang term from the same Velley Girl era, has returned to its original meanings and is no longer slang. I think dork bred geek and then geek assumed a postivie meaning, computer geeks at least. Are we linguistics geeks?
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Re: bonsai

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:04 pm

I was considering a post on res about my musings a day or two ago. I was using a flash drive and realized it's also called a thumb drive, memory stick, usb stick, and I don't remember what all else, and all this developed in only ten or so years! There are probably a half dozen other terms for the same item.
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Re: bonsai

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:59 pm

Nomenclature of new things takes some time to settle. I am not betting on any particular word to win out on these USB menories. In the meantime, have you noticed how Facebook is encroaching on e-mail's domain? I tremble because I have affirmed (not sworn) that I will eschew Facebook and now it looks as if I may have to eat my e-mailing words. Nothing is constant but change, and the rate of change is ever increasing.
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Re: bonsai

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:07 pm

Again, it's about money. Email increases number of used hits, ergo exposure to ads, thus increasing income. fB is not my primary email, but I have a number of times found it a convenient way to communicate with friends whose email address I don't have.
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Re: bonsai

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:49 pm

Why should USB sticks be called any kind of drive? What is being driven? Electrons perhaps. There are no mechanical parts to a memory stick. Notice how the capacity of memory sticks keep growing. Amazing.

Disks have drives that spin the disks. Thus one has DVDs and DVD drives.

I worked on to the development of computer memories from paper tape, punch cards, magnetic tapes, drum memories, cores, bubble memories (the first solid state mass memory which we spent years on and never perfected), and lastly solid-state memories. In my youth the computers had vacuum tube memories that required a crew of technicians constantly replacing tubes. The first computer monitors were adapted RADAR tubes. The computer it took to drive one monitor was housed in a thirty by forty foot room. My first "personal computer" had 8k bytes of memory. I worked on the first GPS receiver. It was mounted on a pickup truck. Now I have greater computing power in my study than was in one of the most powerful computers of the recent past.

The memory stick was an early dream. It took years to realize it. In my career, I got to visualize it, but not to build it. It has been an exhilarating ride. Watching from the sidelines, I expect more to come.
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