Borrowed Words: Red Rover, Red Rover Send …French right over?!

As a child I counted my blessings, because you see I grew up across the street from a park. This particular park was named Logan Park, which was encircled by homes filled with children. Every day after school and chores, the kids would cross the street to play. We played Tag, chasing each other until we couldn’t breathe anymore to Frozen Statues, where we weren’t allowed to move to Red Light, Green Light to one of my favorite games, Red Rover. In case you’re not familiar with Red Rover, allow me to explain. A group a kids divides itself into two teams, each team stands at the opposite side of the designated playing area holding hands. One team begins by chanting: Red Rover, red rover, send (name of child) right over. The named child then runs as hard as she/he can in order to break the human chain. If the child breaks through she grabs one of the children, where she/he broke through and brings that child to their own team. If, however the child does not break through, the child joins the opposite team. Why do I mention this game when I’m writing about language? When Red Rover is done, the teams don’t resemble the original teams at all. This game is very similar to what happens to languages.


English for example, is full of foreign words! When I first began to study Spanish, my teacher gave us a list of vocabulary words to memorize. When I looked down, I was confused, because all these words were in English and I already knew them! The teacher then explained these were words the English language had borrowed from Spanish.

The English language is stocked with words from other languages. Take the phrase “Bon Appetit”. Every American knows this phrase. If asked how to say it in English, we would shrug our shoulders and say we didn’t know. “Bon Appetit” has become part of the English language.


Words from one language are added to another language for many reasons: War and conquest, trends in food or fashion, law and religion, and technology.


Here is a list of borrowed words that we use in everyday English.


Cheetah                       Indian

Algebra                       Arabic

Ketchup                       Chinese

Zombie                        African

Hurricane                    Spanish

Cartoon                       Italian

Hamburger                 German

Cookie                         Dutch

Mosquito                     Portuguese

Chocolate                    Nahuatl

Bagel                           Yiddish

Salamander                 Greek

Mammoth                   Russian


In conclusion, what I’m trying to say is that no matter what language you speak, you probably know some English. Either English has borrowed a word from your language or your language has borrowed a word from English. Either way, you’re further along in learning another language than you thought! What words did your language borrow from English? Or English borrowed from your language?



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