Tag Archives: language

Behind the curve

Where have I been, under a rock perhaps, that I have never heard of “lingua franca?” 

Do you ever notice a word or phrase for the first time and then, all of a sudden, you read it everywhere? 

Recently, I was rushing to finish my June issue of Vanity Fair, as July had just arrived, and I ran across this phrase, lingua franca.  Because I was on a plane, I was unable to look it up.  My guess at a literal translation was “French tongue,” but that didn’t seem to make sense.

In an article called Playing for the World, preceding the start of the World Cup, A. A. Gill wrote, “It isn’t music or movies or pizza that is the lingua franca of the globe. It’s the Beautiful Game.”  Then, I confess, I lingered unduly on the 12-page photo spread of the World Cup athletes.  Annie Leibovitz, I want your job, if just for one day.  But I digress.

I later noticed, in the same issue of the magazine, in different places and in different contexts, lingua franca appeared twice more.

Yesterday I remembered to look it up.  An hour’s worth of cursory research confounded me further. 

You may already know this, but lingua franca is the term for a hybrid language, like pidgin, that is spoken by persons not sharing a common native language, to communicate with one another.  There seem to be dozens of different forms spoken in Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Okay, so I got that.  But now all of a sudden it’s a simile.  It’s a metaphor.  And it’s everywhere.

Again, my research was cursory, so my findings may not be exact, and the sources are obscure.  Either way, here are some examples I dug up.

“The Dow is certainly Wall Street’s lingua franca.”

“T-shirts are the lingua franca of Silicon Valley.”

“Movies are the lingua franca of the twentieth century.”

Sarcasm is the lingua franca of the Internets [sic].”

More literally, in some faiths, a language called Adamic “is the lingua franca of Heaven.”

I read further that Lingua Franca is the name of a literary magazine that closed down in 2001, one I think I would have liked.  It’s also the name of a band out of Flint, Michigan; the name of a CD by an Australian group called The World According to James; and the names of lyrical movements in several countries. 

I hate it when something is cliché before I ever become aware of it.  Reminds me of the “What’s In and What’s Out” list that comes out every January 1st.  Far too often, it’s already Out before I knew it was In.

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Golden anniversary

Today is Word Nymph’s 50th blog post.  I never thought I’d have that much to say.

Milestones are good occasions to look back. 

In 50 blog posts I have learned:

  • Readers have as many peeves and curiosities as I do when it comes to language.  The ones they would like to explore further include “less” versus “fewer,” “use” versus “utilize,” “that” versus “who” and “that” versus “which,”  among others.
  • Most readers don’t take themselves or me too seriously, which is the object of the game here, though occasionally someone does school me with pronounced severity.
  • The search phrases leading to my blog (which I can see on the back end) are, shall we say, interesting.   I definitely underestimated the overall interest in anything nymphish.  Also, there are far more people interested in that silly mayonnaise commercial than I would have thought.  And far fewer people writing about it.  Hence, I might soon attain the title of Mayo Queen.  Thank you, Kraft!
  • I really shouldn’t blog before coffee.

Also on the occasion of this milestone, here’s what I’d like my readers to know:

  • If you see a typo in a post, check back later.  Chances are that it’s been fixed.  After the aforementioned coffee.
  • I appreciate your indulging this experiment of mine.  More than anything, your participation is what makes it fun. 

I hope you’ll stick around.


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