What's in a Word | All Blogs

Good taste in two languages

By Debra Dobbins


One of our headline writers had fun with the French expression a la carte, which means “by the bill of fare” or “by the menu.”  You can check out the headline and story in today's Sentinel.

When we order a la carte, we pay a separate price for each item on the menu. We probably all do mental math every time we sit down in a restaurant and consider how much our wallets will shrink and our waistlines expand if we order drinks, appetizers, side salads and desserts along with our main courses.

“A la cart” is a clever title for the story on the growth of mobile food-vending businesses. The story leads with a personal touch, introducing us to Mike Valdez, an employee of The Dog Haus.

Ach, ja! Haus, not house. This German word is an example of a cognate, a word that sounds the same and is spelled nearly the same in another language. We often find cognates in languages that have the same classification. It is not a surprise, then, to learn that English is classified as a Germanic language.

We can thank the French for phrases such as a la carte. We can thank Germanic people for house and for hot dog because a hot dog is also known as a wiener. Wiener is short for Wiener wurst, or Vienna sausage, and the German name for Vienna is Wien. If we tuck into a bratwurst, we are also savoring something compliments of our linguistic cousins.

I could ramble on about our many borrowings from other languages, but that might only bring out the “wurst” in me.

Au revoir. Bis spater.


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