Word Nerd: 6 foreign words and phrases now popular in English

7 Jan

anna kendrick pitch perfect beca mitchell by Wifflegif

It’s incredible that the more sophisticated your use of English, the more likely you are to speak words that are not … English. Whether you’re going to the bazaar with your fiancé, ordering a pizza with pesto and burrata, or coming to terms with a profound sense of déjà vu you will be sampling from the melting pot of languages that is English.

So, in this edition of Word Nerd, we’re bringing you 6 words and phrases that are now as English as the chicken tikka masala:

1. Acapella: An Italian word that translates to ‘in chapel style.’ It means to sing without instrumental accompaniment. Although it was introduced in the US much earlier, a capella became a cultural phenomenon thanks to productions like Glee and Pitch Perfect.

2. Al dente: Whether or not you cook, chances are you’ve watched a Masterchef or a Bon Appetit episode (like we have) and are familiar with this Italian term. The literal translation is ‘to the tooth.’ It means food which has a bite to it and is popularly used to describe the right texture of pasta.

3. In medias res: A favourite for any English Literature student. This phrase is Latin for ‘in the middle of things.’ It refers to the convention of beginning a narrative in the middle, whether it’s the Iliad, Dalloway or How I Met Your Mother (which should have ended where it began, right?).

4. Katzenjammer: This is the German word for the severe headache that follows a hangover. The literal meaning is cats wailing. It was also the name of a Norwegian band formed in 2005 – but like most hangovers, they didn’t last very long.

5. Je ne sais quoi: This is French for ‘a charming quality that is hard to describe.’ It could be used to describe everything from an aesthetic to an experience. And if you like to sound delightfully vague when you narrate why you returned to Goa for another trip or explain yet another shopping haul – maybe say it’s down to the je ne sais quoi.

6. Nolens volens: This sounds fun and then you read its meaning. It’s Latin for ‘whether you want to or not.’ Applies to most of life as adults know it.

Any words or phrases you’d like to add to this list? Email us or leave a comment below.

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