Then we had the Romans, an invasion force that brought writing with it, and many of its own previous influences. Etruscans, the tribe who lived in what is now Tuscany before the Roman Empire formed, have managed to squeeze at least one of their words – persona*– into our language. The Greeks, while not sharing an alphabet with the Romans, shared some vocabulary with them. It can lead to confusion in English though. While sensitive and insensitive mean almost opposites, flammable and inflammable are the same. One word form is Latin, the other is Greek.
Then there’s the Vikings, the Saxons, the Normans, who all invaded and forced their own officialdom – and book-keeping – on us. Of course there have been myriad other incomers who came in peace and brought their own contributions. And American TV (which could be peaceful I’m still not sure).
What we’ve ended up with is a language so flexible that it becomes very difficult for foreigners to catch the idiom. Take ‘games’ and ‘sports’ for example.
Perhaps that’s the explanation for yesterday’s disgusting performance from the South Korean, Chinese and Indonesian badminton players.
Gamesmanship of the worst kind.
*The word ‘persona’ appears on the base of an Etruscan funerary statue found in a tomb. It’s clear from the figurine that it represents an actor, but the single word gives no clue to its actual meaning. It could, in fact, have been the name of the guy who’s represented.
noun, plural personae
1. a person.
2. personae, the characters in a play, novel, etc.
3. the narrator of or a character in a literary work, sometimes identified with the author.
4. (in the psychology of C. G. Jung) the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual; the public personality ( contrasted with anima).
5. a person's perceived or evident personality, as that of a well-known official, actor, or celebrity; personal image; public role.