|Saturday, July 21, 2001||
"WE don’t just borrow words; on occasion English has pursued other languages down the alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary", wrote James D. Nicoll. Words elegantly called ‘loan words’ were ‘borrowed’ never to be returned, as was observed with regard to Italian, in the previous column. Some words are ‘borrowed’, their meaning changed and, voila! A whole new group of words springs to life around those borrowed word without so much as ‘by your leave’!
The word cybernetics is one such word which has been treated with complete impunity by English. Cybernetics comes from the Greek kubernetes, steersman, governor. It was borrowed by French as cybernetique, the art of governing. The US mathematician Norbert Wiener, the founder of cybernetics, the theory of control and communication processes, introduced the English cybernetics in 1940. With the growing popularity of computers, there emerged the need for a catchy, pithy word for anything to do with computers, hence, cybernetics became cyber and in the long run, users forgot that cyber was abbreviated from cybernetics.
Not only was the
beginning of cyber forgotten, every computer user came up with fresh
neologisms for different aspects of computer-use. "Language is a
city to the building of which every human being brought a stone",
wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. In this case, the stones brought were
mostly back-formations. Back-formation is the creation of one word
from another by removing an element. Such words are usually coined for
effect or because language-users think that they exist or, ought to
Hindi shows no pretensions about borrowing words from other languages. They are called videshaj words, coming from videshi languages, like chai, toofan, patakha and litchi, all from the Chinese.