Joel of Far Outliers is posting excerpts from The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta, by Kushanava Choudhury (Bloomsbury, 2018), and the post he titles Bengal’s New Bourgeoisie contains an interesting example of a loan word confronting the Indian original:

I met a friend who had found such a position [a modern job, writing content or doing design] in an American firm at Sector Five. As she was showing me around her glass temple, she took me to a room full of rolled-up mats. They reminded me of the mats that some of the Muslim waiters used to spread out during prayer times at the Statesman canteen.

‘Are the mats for namaz?’ I asked.

‘No,’ she said, ‘they are for yoga.’

It was the first time I had heard anyone in Calcutta utter the word. She didn’t say joge, which is the Bengali term for the breathing exercises and body contortions that we had all been forced to practise as kids, exercises that were the realm of old geezers, much like consulting astrological charts, performing exorcisms or taking snuff. Joge to us was some grandpa forcing you to sit still for fifteen minutes and pretend to ‘meditate’. This avatar of grandpa’s joge as yuppie yoga was part of a prepackaged global lifestyle imported from America.

It’s as if Brazilian futebol (soccer/football) had developed into a significantly different game, which was then imported into the English-speaking world and called “foochiball” or the like. There must be other actual examples of this sort of thing, but I’m not coming up with them.


  1. January First-of-May says

    There must be other actual examples of this sort of thing, but I’m not coming up with them.

    Surely anime would count? Though it’s not that identical to the original.
    I think there are a few more similar cases, though I can’t think of any offhand.

    (Incidentally, what happened to my comment on the Starodub thread? I expected it to go into moderation, but it just disappeared entirely, and when I tried to post it again I got a duplicate comment message.)

  2. I’m not sure anime is quite the same thing, but I agree it’s a reasonable parallel.

    (It’s there now.)

  3. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    It’s as if Brazilian futebol (soccer/football) had developed into a significantly different game, which was then imported into the English-speaking world and called “foochiball” or the like.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Brazilian say “futebol”, but now that I’ve flown to Navegantes airport and learned it’s pronounced as if it were a Spanish word spelt naveganche I shouldn’t be surprised if it was heard as “foochiball” by an English speaker.

  4. On the linguistic level (language B borrows a word from language A, which after undergoing some changes is borrowed back into language A) it’s what’s called a Rückwanderer. English doesn’t have many, and “anime” may be the only well-known one. (There are some other Japanese ones, but not things most English speakers would know.) They’re much more common in e.g. Greek, for obvious reasons (see link above).

  5. @Tim May: There are indeed quite a few English > Japanese > English examples. Besides anime, I would think that cosplay and salaryman are pretty well known. (The alteration in meaning of salaryman is quite minor though.)

  6. David Marjanović says



  7. Ah yes, foosball isn’t a bad example.

  8. Savalonôs says

    Persian/Urdu/Turkish namāz (نماز) is, naturally, the Persian cognate of namo/namaste. If they end their yuppie joge session with a heartfelt “namaste”, then arguably the mat is indeed for namāz.

  9. There is allegedly the Italian > French > Italian case of casino. The French had borrowed the word, which was just a diminutive of casa, and later on the Italian took it back to mean specifically the gambling facility, but it acquired the end-stress on the way: casinò. Meanwhile the original penultimately-stressed word also survived in the language but apparently shifted a bit and became a euphemism for brothel.

  10. An excellent example!

  11. I imagine there are burritos in Spain, of US origin.

  12. I suppose it’s possible, if there is a sufficient concentration of Californians in some Spanish city to support a nostalgic eatery. I can’t imagine many Spaniards would eat them.

  13. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I don’t think Spanish cities would be less likely to have any given form of fast food than any other European city (although I think burritos must be more ubiquitous in the US than in Europe – I’ve heard of them but never to my knowledge eaten one).

    Google offers plenty of Spanish burrito places, anyway!

  14. Ah, well then, I’m wrong, as I often am! Of course there’s plenty of fast food everywhere, I just wouldn’t have thought the Spanish would have any need to import what I find a particularly boring variety (sorry, Californians) when they have such tasty food of their own.

  15. About twenty years ago, I heard there was one (1) food truck serving burritos in all of Mexico City, and that they were good.

    Burritos don’t have to be boring. They can be quite tasty, and there’s nothing as utilitarian.

  16. Does futsal count?

  17. I’ve eaten burritos in Alicante, in Fosters Hollywood, “El sueño americano hecho carta”. Their menu lists them under Tex-Mex; is that a terrible blunder, or does Tex encompass Cal for culinary purposes?

  18. @Breffni: There are certainly Tex-Mex burritos, but they are not what I would tend to think of as Tex-Mex food. The prototypical Tex-Mex dish is, of course, a beef fajita.

  19. But is joge really the “Indian original”? It is the Americanised practice that is using the original Sanskrit yoga and that is being contrasted with the older Indian practice as referred to in a modern Indic language. Isn’t it more like someone referring to gridiron as football in Brazil and that being contrasted with the use of the locally derived futebol for the older un-American version of the game?

  20. When Portuguese speakers speak about Japanese tempura I assume that would count, although Wikipedia says the name comes from Quatuor Tempora, which is Latin, not Portuguese. So Latin-within-Portuguese travelled to Japan and came back to Portuguese as a Japanese word. Make sense?

    Kasutera (Castella) would be similar, if any Portuguese ever had occasion to speak of it, because it comes from Pão de Castela.

  21. Michael Eochaidh says

    Last time I was in Paris I saw a Cafe Indiana which had Tex-Mex food on the menu. I suspect that includes burritos, but I couldn’t find a menu online (I didn’t go in). It looks like it’s a chain–they have several locations.

  22. If futsal counts, then karaoke should count. I’m not sure whether the source of the oke part is English or Portuguese, but both have borrowed the Japanese form back.

  23. Their menu lists them under Tex-Mex; is that a terrible blunder, or does Tex encompass Cal for culinary purposes?

    Oh, I’m sure they have burritos in Texas, but all the people I’ve known who consider them a basic food item are from California. They’re generally shocked to learn that Mexicans often have never heard of them.

  24. Wikipedia has this, unfortunately not quoting the headword “burrito” itself —
    > In the 1895 Diccionario de Mexicanismos, the burrito or taco was identified as a regional item from the Mexican state of Guanajuato and defined as “Tortilla arrollada, con carne u otra cosa dentro, que en Yucatán llaman coçito, y en Cuernavaca y en Mexico, taco”

    Which does specify rolled rather than just taco-folded, but I do wonder whether it was tucked at the ends or rolled like an enchilada.

    Wikipedia also claims “burritos are a traditional food of Ciudad Juárez” and other northern areas which probably makes them reborrowed down from El Paso.

    None of this detracting from your basic point that as a staple food item they’re U.S.

  25. John Cowan says

    Wiktionary gives two possible etymologies for tempura: the “ember days” etymology (Catholic days of fasting on which fried fish was eaten), for which Portuguese uses a Latin borrowing; and tempero ‘seasoning’, its etymological doublet.

    As for karaoke, all sources agree that the origin of okesutora (of which oke is a clipped form) is English.

  26. In California, the common knowledge among those who cosider themselves knwledgeable, is that burritos started out as Tex-Mex food, but became popularized in Los Angeles (according to Angelenos) or in San Francisco (according to San Franciscans). I have lived and eaten burritos in both cities, and consider the styles to overlap.

  27. Christopher Culver says

    I wonder if the Italian use of casino for ‘brothel’ that DP describes is a calque on French maison tolérée id., which is often shortened to simply maison.

  28. SFReader says

    I’ve recently read an article about the true history of the “Gerasimov doctrine” and “hybrid war” concept.

    It goes like this: some Russian military analyst studying the 2000 Serbian revolution which toppled Milosevic and the following “color revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan came up with the idea that this is how the West now apparently plans to wage war – regime change using carefully orchestrated popular protests combined with some special forces operations and information/disinformation campaign.

    Cheap and bloodless.

    The idea caught on and became popular, even the chief of General Staff General Gerasimov wrote an article about dangers of this new Western way of war which he dubbed “hybrid war”. Gerasimov called Russian officers to study this new military concept and incorporate it in the Russian military strategy.

    American Kremlinologist Mark Galleoti read the article and wrote his own article about it where he attributed the authorship of the concept to General Gerasimov and called it “the Gerasimov doctrine”, skipping the part about “hybrid war” being American invention.

    Tons of paper were wasted writing about this topic ever since without bringing any deeper understanding – is it Western concept, is it Russian, is it real or is it just, I don’t know, meme?

  29. SFReader says

    Something similar happened a few decades ago with another Russian word – maskirovka.

    Somehow the NATO analysts decided that this pretty obscure Russian word had some unsuspected depths of meaning revealing countless insights into Russian military mind.

    Again, tons of books were written on the subject until it became utterly unrecognizable.

    In case if you are wondering, the word just means “camouflage”, nothing less, nothing more.

  30. There was that recent article about the concept of kastom in some exotic far-away Oceanian language (that on closer inspection actually turns out to be a loanword from English, perhaps thru a local pidgin).

  31. actually turns out to be a loanword from English

    Er… you didn’t pick up on it straight away?

  32. Greg Goulding says

    This could also be viewed as an evolution / permutation of the process through which words in Indian languages, which may have an etymological connection to Sanskrit but whose pronunciation has changed, are replaced with the “original” Sanskrit equivalent. In Hindi, for instance rain can be “baarish” or “varsha.” That is, the re-borrowing is taking place under a background in which these kind of formations are to be expected.

    Also, only semi-related, a literary history (in Hindi) mentions a census-taker confronting a family (in Bengal, iirc) which was a attempting to register their surname as the more Sanskritic “yogi” rather than the “jogi” name by which they were known. The census taker reportedly said, “I will cut off this hand before I write the letter Y.”

  33. Great example and anecdote!

  34. There are quite a few of those between Bulgarian and Russian (Bulgarian — Russian — Bulgarian), although the only one that comes immediately to mind is юноша.

  35. Trond Engen says

    Arguably No. dial. slalåm “downhill track” > Eng. slalom “type of ski competition” > No. slalom “id.” > No. slalåm (consciously nativizing spelling) “id.”.

  36. David Marjanović says

    Hamburger, pronounced à l’anglaise in German if not referring to the city.

  37. As (approximately) a San Franciscan, the understanding that I obtained ??somewhere?? was that burritos, as a traditional food of Northern Mexico, were smaller and contained fewer fillings (maybe just beans and meat), and that the San Francisco innovation was using a giant tortilla and adding rice.

    For a vegetarian, they’re usually the only remotely reasonable fast food option.

  38. The word shaman supposedly made a big circle around Eurasia, from Sanskrit to Pali to (perhaps) Tocharian to Evenki to Russian to German to English to Hindi, and for all I know, back to neo-Sanskrit, if the need ever arose.

    That is, unless it’s actually a native Tungusic word, for which a good case has been made as well.

  39. Google

    [ “from English”] redingote, craic, pibroch, mihanere, seniti, mailo, milady, milord, pikake, miesies, Merikani

    [ “modification of English”]
    bullamacow seniti sapit Volapük redingote rep [“plain-weave fabric with prominent rounded crosswise ribs”] Vombatus sapit

  40. We recently discussed kastom, here.

  41. CuConnacht says

    The -katsu part of tonkatsu is from English cutlet, so if tonkatsu is by now an English word, it should go on the list.

  42. speedwell says

    When my mother, whose stepfather had a Scottish mother and who happened to grow up close to Irish people in Pittsburgh, used to ask me when I was a snarky teenager, “What kind of crack was that?”, she meant, “I think you’re amusing yourself at my expense”. I don’t know and probably can’t know whether it’s from Scots, Irish, English, or the TV, though.

  43. I knew word craic, but always assumed it was Gaelic.

    So it’s just a borrowing of English crack in Irish Gaelic spelling?

  44. John Cowan says

    Plain English, from crack ‘boast’. Craic is of the same origin: English > Irish > English.

  45. ponzu (sauce):

    Sanskrit pañca > English punch > Dutch pons > Japanese ponzu > English ponzu

  46. Kasutera (Castella) would be similar, if any Portuguese ever had occasion to speak of it

    +conpeito /konpeitō /金平糖 candies

  47. I still remember what a revelation it was the first time I had a burrito in San Francisco in the late 1980s. In terms of the quality/quantity/price relation a $3.50 burrito back then was the best food value around for anyone on a budget.

    Modern Spain is already full of Burger Kings, McDonalds and native lousy fast food like VIPs. Decent burritos would actually be a welcome upgrade. Most Americans who live in Europe would probably cite decent burritos as one of the top foods they miss. Also true that for a food that seems so simple, burritos are also apparently shockingly easy to screw up. Anna’s Taqueria in the Boston area might change your mind if you’re not a fan.

  48. Oh yeah, they’re great value, and they can be tasty — I’m not saying I hate burritos. But basically they seem pretty boring compared to, say, tacos. Maybe I’ve just never had a great one.

  49. Christopher Culver says

    “Modern Spain is already full of Burger Kings, McDonalds and native lousy fast food like VIPs.”

    I am actually in Madrid at the moment, revisiting old haunts, and I am aghast at how many Taco Bell locations there are here now. A city full of immigrants from Mexico can’t get real Tex-Mex food? Sadly, many of the small family-owned locations that I used to patronize for lunch have no closed.

  50. I am actually in Madrid at the moment, revisiting old haunts, and I am aghast at how many Taco Bell locations there are here now.

    Good lord. I despair.

  51. John Cowan says

    When Mr. Bell’s fast-food restaurant in San Bernadino was outshone by the Mexican competition across the street, he appropriated their recipes and set up a series of restaurants and small chains, of which Taco Bell was the one that sold to Pepsico. There was nothing Texan about it.

  52. Bathrobe says

    That is just a small part of the globalisation of the food industry. I shudder when I see the old Rowntree’s Kitkats now branded as Nestlé Kitkats. The big food conglomerates have gobbled up just about everything worth gobbling up. And it affects just about everything that goes into our mouths. (“Socialised medicine” is partly socialising the costs of rapacity in the food industry.)

  53. The French ???????????????????????? comes from English ????????????????????????????, which I had been told came from French ???????????????? ????ℎ???????????????? (for its properties as road surface.)

    Unfortunately the story doesn’t check out, as Wikipedia claims a Sanskrit root that became ???????????????????????????????????? in latin, and ???????????????????????????? in French before it was taken up in English.

    Never check a story – you may ruin it.

  54. January First-of-May says

    I always thought that bitum(en) (the Russian word is битум, with initial stress) had to be Akkadian or thereabouts. But Sanskrit is also nice.

  55. Christopher Culver says

    Popup, it is not a Sanskrit root that became something in Latin, but rather a Proto-Indo-European root that appears in both Sanskrit and Latin. However, according to Michiel de Vaan’s recentish etymological dictionary of Latin (a more authoritative source than that ancient publication that Wikipedia cites), Latin borrowed the word from either the Sabbelic languages or Celtic.

  56. David Marjanović says

    pix tumens: “swelling pitch”?

  57. dainichi says

    I thought Norse loans into English which have been borrowed back into descendants would provide a lot of examples, but somehow the only ones I can find are ‘steak’ and ‘-cast’ as in ‘podcast’, ‘broadcast’.

  58. Trond Engen says

    ‘Bag’ for one.

    A couple more from Old Norse:

    ‘Hai’ “shark” < Du. haai < ON .

    ‘Ekvipere’ “equip (especially with clothes)” < Fr. équiper < ON skipa.

  59. David Marjanović says

    I once read that schikanieren “to bully, mob, constantly mistreat” is OHG > French > German, making it a doublet of schicken “send” and giving it three infinitive endings in a row. Alas, the DWDS proposes a purely French origin for chicaner, and the Duden just says “origin unclear”.

  60. Proto-Samic *kāsō ‘mist’ → Finnish kaasu ‘id.’ > ‘gas’ (via phonosemantic matching) → modern Northern Sami gássa ‘gas’.

  61. David Marjanović says

    That’s awesome.

  62. Compare kasumi and kasumu:

    かすみ (rōmaji kasumi)
    霞, 霞み: mist

    かすむ (godan conjugation, rōmaji kasumu)
    霞む: to grow hazy, to be misty

  63. Peregrinations of the
    stakan: Farsi -> Turkic -> Russian -> Farsi, various Turkic languages, etc.

  64. January First-of-May says

    One nice English example I thought of yesterday: aitch “the letter H” (inherited, ultimately from Latin) versus ecchi “erotic comics” (from the above, via Japanese).

    …Well, to the extent that ecchi counts as an English word, anyway. (Though it is listed on Wiktionary.)

  65. John Cowan says

    To caricature a Darkovan saying: It is not well-done to chain a dragon to fry tempura.

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