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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XX. The Language from Chaucer to Shakespeare

§ 6. Influence of Romance languages

Besides these new words of classical origin, there were many Romance forms which were being tentatively used, and which ultimately went to enrich the English vocabulary. In general, it may be said that they are less abstract in character than those contributed by the classics. Being drawn from living languages, they stand in a closer relation to actual life; they represent new objects rather than new ideas; and so reflect something of the nature of the current intercourse between England and the Romance countries. There were, in the first place, many new words of French origin, and their number, undoubtedly, was increased by the fact that many classical, as well as Italian, works were translated into English from French versions. They consist, for the most part, of words of a general kind, though military terms figure somewhat largely. The following are instances of borrowings connected with the soldier’s trade: “accoutrement,” “battery,” “flank,” “pioneer,” “calibre,” “cassock” (a military cloak) and “colonel” (pronounced in three syllables). Phrases such as “plaine force” and “body politicke” were, occasionally, borrowed, besides such common words as “chart,” “gallimaufry” (mixture), “baies” (baize) and “bombast” (cotton wadding). The word “essay” now, for the first time, became used in its modern sense owing to Montaigne; “genteel” represented a re-adoption of the French “gentil” which, previously borrowed, had, by this date, become “gentle;” “collcaryour” (messenger) was a modification of the French “colporteur,” while “horly borly” was due to the ingenuity of Rabelais. There were, of course, many instances of words which never became Anglicised, for example: “bourreau,” “bruit,” “haut,” “sanglier,” “travise,” “sparple” (scatter), “mures” (walls) and “cassed” (discharged). The word “faubourg” (suburb) and the phrase “all amort” (à la mort) were naturalised for a time, but only to be treated as foreign at a later date. French influence on the orthography was but slight: the strange forms “doggue,” “pangue,” “publique” are interesting in view of the modern spelling “tongue”; “eguall” represents a blend of both Latin and French.

Of still greater importance were the additions to the vocabulary derived from the Spanish. They were very largely connected with ideas of the New World, more particularly of the West Indies, where Spain had large interests, and, unlike the classical importations, they are concerned with the spoken, rather than with the literary, language. They became familiar in various ways: through the numerous pamphlets which aimed at supplying information about Spain, through translations of Spanish works such as Oviedo’s History of the West Indies, or, again, through accounts of English voyages. But more important than all was the influence of English adventurers who returned from the west with wondrous tales and strange new words. Many of the words thus introduced had been adopted by the Spaniards from the West Indian (Hayti) language: for example, “canoe,” “hurricane,” “tobacco,” “maize,” “cannibal”; but, in the forms “mosquito,” “El Dorado,” “cocoa” and “alligator,” Romance roots had been employed to denote the new phenomena. Of the remaining words, which were largely bound up with war, commerce or religion, a certain number ended in -o (-ado), as, “cargo,” “embargo,” “desperado,” “renegado.” Hence, in numerous others, the -ado ending is affected where the Spanish equivalents had -ada: for example, “armado” (armada), “ambuscado,” “bastinado,” “bravado,” “carbonado,” “palisado,” “strappado.” Other adaptations are, “Canary,” “Bilbo” (sword), “fico” (fig), “flamingo” and “grandee;” sometimes phrases were borrowed as “paucas palabris” (in short) and “miching mallhecho.”

A great number of Italian words, also, were introduced at this time, but, as they often came through French, for instance, “gazette” and “carnival,” their identification is not always easy. Much of the Italianate English of which Ascham complains never became naturalised; the use of the Italian adverb “via” (go on), and “ben venuto” (welcome), was merely temporary, while words like “bona-roba,” “amoretti” and “borachio,” which promised to become permanent, were soon regarded as foreign. But English travellers, English traders and English translators could not fail to add something to their native vocabulary, and such words as “duello,” “complimento” and “bandetto”; “argosy,” “magnifico” and “Bergomask” (rustic dance); “canto,” “stanza” and “sonnet,” were among the additions. Architectural terms, too, were borrowed from Italy, for, in Elizabeth’s reign, the Tudor style was being modified by the Cinque-cento, English buildings were being constructed after Italian designs and Italian treatises were being turned into English; in consequence, such words as “belvedere,” “antic,” “grotta” and “portico” became familiar. The jargon of the Italian fencing-schools also became fashionable, as a result of the displacement of the old broadsword by the foreign rapier: the Bobadils of the day talked freely of the “punto,” “reverso,” “stoccato” and “passado.”

Dutch borrowings must also be mentioned, though not numerically large. They were introduced by English adventurers who had fought against Spain in the Netherlands, and who, on their return home, larded their conversation with Dutch phrases there acquired: “easterling,” “beleaguer,” “burgomaster,” “domineer” and “forlorn hope” are instances of such additions. Similarly, oriental words, such as “car-away,” “garbled,” “gong,” “dervish” and “divan,” witness to extended nautical enterprise; each account of a voyage contained a host of such words, which might or might not become naturalised.