Enough said … the English language

Blue plume penWe don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. Booker T. Washington

English is a funny language; that explains why we park our car on the driveway and drive our car on the parkway. Author Unknown

Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. The English reading public explains the reason why. James Joyce

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. Doug Larson

Making English grammar conform to Latin rules is like asking people to play baseball using the rules of football. Bill Bryson

I speak two languages: Body and English. Mae West

Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing. Robert Benchley

To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up. George Orwell

When I read some of the rules for speaking and writing the English language correctly, I think any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it. Henry David Thoreau

English? Who needs it. I’m never going to England. Homer SimpsonRed x pen

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A polylingual multiglot?

Multidigit or polydigit … or simply just a lot of fingers.

In English the conventional terms are polyglot and multilingual. Of course. But what about polylingual and multiglot? Are these acceptable? Are they understandable? Can’t we just freely combine any “combining forms” like multi, poly, mis, dis, un, im, in, graph, kilo, auto, and so on?

Webster’s New World Dictionary (4th edition) has the following definitions of the traditional terms: polyglot and multilingual.

polyglot adj., noun [Gr polyglōttos < poly-, POLY- + glōtta, the tongue]

  1. speaking or writing several languages
  2. containing or written in several languages
  1. a polyglot person
  2. a polyglot book
  3. a mixture or confusion of languages

multilingual adj. [L < multus, much, many < IE base * mel-, strong, big > Gr mala, very combining form. ME < ML lingualis < L lingua:]

  1. of or in several languages
  2. using or capable of using several languages

These words entered English historically at different times: polyglot directly from Greek and multilingual through Middle English and (Middle) Latin. By convention we tend to combine Greek with Greek forms and Latin with Latin. However, descriptively I know of no real obstacle to being creative. Editors will surely shutter now. Apologies. But why not play with English.

We could create synonyms by crossing basic forms. For example, try Latin magna- instead of Greek mega- or macro- (all three mean ‘large or great’) and Latin urban instead of Greek politan (both basically mean ‘related to cities’). The results would be magnapolitan or mega-urban or macro-urban. Works for me. With all the roots from Latin and Greek, the possible combinations are numerous.

Let’s spice up our dull texts from time to time and be the first with a new twist on old words. Just for fun or at least in a blog.