Waterstuff and sourstuff make water




In an era of globalized movement of laborers, it is only fitting that a global linguistic transaction of loanwords and etymologically related words was also going to take place. European languages in particular share common vocabulary and grammar characteristics. This situation enables learners to get used to a more variable linguistic repertoire and subsequently form a new European multilingual identity. What happens, however, when languages go on a systematic attempt to “pure” themselves from foreign loanwords? Are they really maintaining their own distinct identities or is it just a futile attempt leading to linguistic isolation and deterioration of cultural relations?


In this article, we are examining two cases. The first deals with a purist alternative, which appeared in the United Kingdom. This “purified” form of English is named Anglish and it consists only of words of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic origin. The second case is the case of Greek, whose users mainly use calques, in technological terms in particular, to maintain a distinct linguistic identity.


A calque, or loan translation is a linguistic term and according tothe Merriam-Webster dictionary it signifies a compound, derivative or  phrase that is introduced in a language, through translation of each of its constituents. The widespread use of calques is a means to achieve the so-called purism that the advocates of this linguistic method support.


Anglish is basically a hypothetical language, whose advocates use terms exclusively of Germanic origin, trying to void the language of any predominantly Romance influences, as well as influences from other languages. There is literally a text in this particular variety, written by Poul Anderson, named Uncleftish Beholding, written in 1989, which is an indicative of this attempt to emphasize the Germanic character of English and to give notice to the wider Germanic and Norse culture and bring it to use within the English language.


Below I will provide some examples of different terms in this hypothetical language.


showplayer     actor              From the German word Schauspieler

farseeer           television       From German Fernseher

bendsome      flexible            Resulting from coinage


It is fascinating though how scientific words are pronounced in the Uncleftish Beholding book.



uncleft              atom              atom < άτομο < α (not)+τέμνω (to cut) cleft=split

beholding        theory           perceive something through sight and apprehension (Merriam Webster)

sourstuff         oxygen           From German Sauerstoff

waterstuff       hydrogen        hydrogen < υδρογόνο < from ύδωρ (water) and γεννάω (give birth)

ymirstuff        uranium            In Norse mythology the god Ymir has similar characteristics to the Greek god Uranus


Another example of a language using purist methods is Greek. The Greek people take real pride in the affluent literary tradition, which can be traced back to Homer. Taking that into consideration, Greek academicians and lexicographers try to conceive Greek neologisms, stemming from fully Greek roots, giving particular emphasis to eliminate Anglicisms, when it comes to technological appliances and advancements. This tendency can be better illustrated with examples below.



Internet         (Ίντερνετ)                                     Διαδίκτυο (Diadiktyo)

post (verb)    ποστάρω (postaro)                     αναρτώ (anarto)

blog               μπλογκ                                      ιστολόγιο (istologio)


In this case, we can see that the usage of calques is prevalent in Greek as well. The word website for example is translated in each of its constituents as ιστοσελίδα.


This tendency extends itself into various sectors of the linguistic landscape. Below, I will provide some examples.



marketing                       μάρκετινγκ                                  αγοραλογία (agoralogia)

maquiller                        μακιγιέρ/μακιγιέζ                     ψιμυθιολόγος (psimythiologos)


The tendency to use linguistically pure terms is an attempt to underline the specific linguistic and subsequently cultural idiosyncrasies that accompany a language. The advocates of these methods want to void the language of its entire loanword repertoire, whereas the more moderate linguists believe that a language is a living organism, with the loanwords being a pivotal component towards its evolution.


Pierre Frath in his journal Hegemonie de l’anglais, in an attempt to describe the reason why the efforts of the French academicians to replace every international word with a fully-fledged French word is pointless, gives a brief etymological history of the word mail and the way, in which it became mel in French, stating that the word mail itself stems from Old French. The history of this word illustrates pretty effectively the constant back and forth among these two neighboring languages, thus rendering every attempt towards full purism in a language totally pointless and obsolete. Languages remain in constant interactivity with each other, in compliance with the continuous labor movement, that takes place among social groups. So, even if the foreign loanwords are substituted by etymologically “pure” words, it is inevitable, that this tendency, will eventually stop under the pressure of linguistic interactivity and constant neologisms.




Pierre Frath Hégémonie de l’anglais fantasmes et dangers (Langues Modernes, 2001)





Blendi Halilaj is a student of the Master in Learning and Communications in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts in the University of Luxembourg. His Bachelor is in English Language and Literature, majoring in Linguistics. He was born in 1993 in Albania and migrated to Greece in 1995 at the age of two. He has been living in Luxembourg for almost a year now.