Many of my students often have the misconception that all languages, including English, come from Latin.
Nope. Not true. A lot of languages come from Latin, but English is not one of them. English is a Germanic language.
We have borrowed a ton of vocabulary from Latin. 90% of our multi-syllable words come from Latin. This alone tells you that you can drastically increase your understanding of the English language by mastering Latin.
This probably explains why so many of our forefathers learned Latin. It probably also explains why the designers of the public school system wanted to get rid of Latin starting in the mid-1800s It’s hard to enslave a literate society.
An illiterate society, on the other hand… Well. Just look around.
Even though English draws so much of its vocabulary from the deep well we called Latin, it’s not the only well English dips into.
This morning, author Tim Ferris, tipped me off to some Japanese words that have made it into our language.
My personal favorite is Kudzu.
My father, who has passed away now, was missing a leg below the knee. Diabetes took it.
However, when my kids asked what had happened, I pointed to a nearby kudzu patch. “See that vine over there? Have you ever heard of a Venus flytrap? It turns out that kudzu and the Venus flytrap are in the same botanical family. Just as the Venus flytrap is carnivorous, so is kudzu. Grandpa tried to take a shortcut through the kudzu patch one day. The kudzu gobbled his leg.”
Like myself, my dad was a practical joker with a twisted sense of humor. He couldn’t stop laughing.
My kids, however, who were young at the time, are still suspicious of kudzu. Heh.