I’ve recently read that 30% of the Romanian words have French origin, which is quite surprising if I think of the vast Romanian vocabulary coming from English, Turkish, Italian or German. What does that say about our language? First of all, that it’s definitely very rich, since besides all these, we also have Romanian words! Second, the way we adapt the foreign lexicon to our own way of speaking talks a lot about our culture: we are creative and we get easily adapted. If that sounds ethnocentric to you, go on and read the following examples.
Romanian in the IT era
Generally these words have the original spelling, but – watch out – they will receive the Romanian endings when articulated or in plural form. That means that “links” will become “linkuri”,”folders” will be “foldere” and “the blog” will be “blogul”. No wonder my spell checker doesn’t recognize these forms!
General English words
Our creativity doesn’t apply only to the IT area, we have also included in our daily vocabulary words such as “advertising”, “insight”, “PR”, “word-of-mouth”, but fortunately we keep their original spelling. However, not all the words were so lucky; let’s consider for example “jachetă” (jacket), “fotbal” (football),” meci” (match) or ”jeanși” (jeans). And if you are a fun of chips, don’t forget that in Romanian we call them “cipsuri” (also spelled chipsuri).
Back in the nineteenth century, when the education reform was just about to reach the Romanian cities, all our intellectuals were studying in other European cities: Wien, Berlin, but mostly in Paris. That means that, between 1800 and 1900, not less than 10.000 young Romanians were studying law, philosophy or medicine in the world-famous European universities. The effects can still be seen in our language. In that period all the élites were speaking French in the Bucharest once called “the little Paris”. Just as simple as that, all the low-class people wanted to be like them, so they started copying and adapting the French vocabulary to the Romanian spelling rules (you read as you write). The results are more than hilarious: “șezlong” (chaise-longue), ”vizavi ” (vis-à-vis), ”abajur” (abat-jour), ”șofer” (chauffeur), ”jandarm” (gendarme), and the list could go on.
I guess that one could call all these examples ”vocabulary crimes”, since they don’t seem to respect at all the rules of the original language. We even had a literature critic which was very much against the use of foreign words such as ”weekend” or ”popcorn”, but we all know that translating these words mot-à-mot would actually create a total imbroglio.
Moreover, all these borrowings between languages prove that they are alive and continuously evolving, in their own way. If these examples weren’t enough to convince you about the creativity of the Romanian nation, I bet they put a smile upon your face!