The Power of Babel

Language Morphs – transfer and language change

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As the echoes of ‘Gladly the Cross I’d Bear’ reverberate around the church, there sits a little girl with a questionable face thinking who is ‘Gladly’ and why sing about the unfortunate bear being cross-eyed.  

So, here lies transfer and language change. For example, ‘nickname’ started off as ekename; eke being ‘also’. Through time and the use of ‘an ekename’ people began to interpret the n in an as the first letter; hence a nickname. Even Santa Claus began life differently as a Dutch word Sant Heer Niclaes. St Nicholas was shortened to Santerclaes and reinterpreted. English is full of words that are not descended in ‘pure’ state from older equivalents.  So, be careful when you tell people to ‘Shaddap’ or ‘Caditout’.     Reference: The Power of Babel by John McWhorter