Word-Roots

English is often painted as a very welcoming language; it will quickly & readily absorb words from just about any other language. And yet, in many ways, English has remained surprisingly true to its Anglo-Saxon roots.

When we speak or write in our common tongue—when we use plain English—we tend to favor words of Germanic or Norse word-roots over those of French or Latin or Greek (or other even more obscure) etymology. To this day, English English words are everyday; other English words are often formal; fancy-pants; uppity; strange; weird.

For comparison, take a gander at this list, which includes pairs like: book vs. literary; thinking vs. pensive; ask vs. inquire; buy vs. purchase; follow vs. ensue; and forgive vs. pardon.

Over the years, there have been movements to return English to the "Linguistic Purity" of its past... Though they have very little traction, offshoots still exist today, including: First English; Ednew English ("Renewal" English); and Anglish (named for the tongue's Anglo-Saxon roots), to name a few.

 

We should be aware that, when we translate, using "Anglish" terms gives us a certain power: the ability to imbue our language with a closer, more intimate, and natural feeling to our language. Anglish words have meatiness, heft, and weight. They give depth.

Furthermore, they have easily-recognizable wordbits (morphemes)! They are straightforward, outspoken, and forthright about what they mean and why... Tibetan, too, is a tongue deeply rooted in the transparency of its wordbits. And, when Buddhism made its way to Tibet, new words and compound words were coined in its service.

If we're ever to truly have a Buddhist English, one that reflects our sense of the world, and one that resonates deeply with its native speakers, then perhaps it's time we give up relying on Sanskrit loanwords.

For if the history of our language has shown anything, it's that we may come to adopt some of these terms as our own; yet, even if we do, they'll retain a tinge of not-quite-English-ness about them for century upon century...