Language, Sundry


I recently caught myself typing the word “quilt” when I meant to refer to a “kilt” because Yayoi’s pronunciation merges the two together. They say that married couples eventually start to look like each other, but it is a bit different to have your language start morphing on you.

Which brings up a different anecdote. When I was young I overheard some British people refer to the process of “repatriation.” I later learned that this is because they were “ex-patriots.” It seemed kind of harsh that these people should be treated as ex-patriots simply for spending some time in a foreign country. (In America, “patriot” means Paul Revere, and anyone who becomes an ex, in need of re, is not someone you would respect.) I wondered if repatriation involved classes on the Monarchy and Parliament and other stuff to get the Americanness out of their systems, and if this was common for people returning to their countries — If I ever left, would I have to attend classes and re-take the Constitution test before I could be trusted to behave as an American again?

With time and an improved understanding of Latin word roots, I figured that they had been referring to the process of repatriating expatriates. There is no English word “patriate” but in Spanish and French the patria is the country-side, derived from Latin pater, for father . . . so, the land of your father. (The derivation of “patriot” is similiar.)

English is a twisted, gnarly language, even for native speakers, so if I should mistake a “kilt” for a “quilt” because my wife can’t wrap her tongue around the kw- sound, it is only fair.

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Categories: Language, Sundry