Foreign loanwords in English and the “exotic charm” of accents
by Pisana Ferrari – cApStAn Ambassador to the Global Village
Some foreign words imported into English have “diacritical marks”, better known as “accents”. Most of these words are from French but there are many also from Spanish, Portuguese, German and other languages. Just how important to the English language are accented characters? And will they withstand the test of time? asks the author of this article for the “Week”. For example, in English one no longer puts the circumflex accent on rôle or hôtel, and résumé is often written with no accents or one only. But sometimes accents are added even if there is no reason: latté has no accent in Italian, where the word comes, and maté has none in Spanish and Portuguese. The double-dot crown named “umlaut,” is so fashionable that it is even being added to English words (e.g. the Blue Öyster Cult band) and used in US brands (Söfft shoes). Why? Some claim accents have an “exotic charm”. Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief at Random House, says “Sojourning in a chateau can’t be nearly as much fun as sojourning in a château!” Accents are actually also very useful when you need to distinguish between rose and rosé, divorce and divorcé, expose and exposé, says the author. The downsides? Accents don’t show up in web addresses and are rarely reproduced in newspapers, say critics. The Chicago Manual of Style, leading guide for book publishers, for its part, “plants its flag squarely in the accent camp”. And, thanks to Unicode, a variety of accents are available, and even smartphone users now have plenty to choose from.
Graphic elaboration Pisana Ferrari, background photo Alexis Antonio/Unsplash