R: Latin vs. Germanic

Subject: R: Latin vs. Germanic
From: Alessandro Bottoni <albo -at- CADLAB -dot- IT>
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 1997 11:45:50 +0200

Donald J. Plummer wrote:

In a writing class last Fall, our professor mentioned some study that
indicated words of Anglo-Saxon origin were more directly and easily
understood by native English speakers than were words of Latinate (either
direct from Latin, or indirect through Norman French) origin. The example
he gave in class was *Lock the door* vs.*Secure the door.* His advice to
us was that if we want to be direct and minimize risk of misunderstanding,
we should maximize the use of Anglo-Saxon words, especially in
instructional writing.

In Italy, most of english language teachers suggest us to use as many anglo-saxon words as possible because they sound more familiar to british and american people. Personally, I prefer to use words of anglo-saxon origin because it is less like to make a mistake: there are several latin-derived english words that look very like to italian ones but have very different meanings (we call them "false friends").

A few examples of english/italian "false friends":
"actually" is very similar to "attualmente", that means "currently"
"eventually" is very similar to "eventualmente", that means "in case..."
"terrific" is very similar to "terrificante", that means "awfull"

Alessandro Bottoni
Technical writer
Cad.Lab SPA
Via Ronzani 7/29
40033 Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna)
Tel Int+ 51-597357
Fax Int+ 51-597120


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