Since tomorrow is April 1, the annual day the internet becomes useless for 24 hours, I thought I’d move up Friday’s video post by a day.

Here’s a short and interesting video about the development of the English language and how, because it has roots in both Germanic and Romance languages, we’ve ended up with multiple words for the same thing.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


3 Thoughts on "Why Does English Have So Many Words That Have Twins?"

The video hints at the fact that the situation is actually more complicated than described. English has many triplets: the Germanic word, the word borrowed from French, and then the word borrowed directly from Latin.

Here is a quote with examples:

“But language tends not to do what we want it to. The die was cast: English had thousands of new words competing with native English words for the same things. One result was triplets allowing us to express ideas with varying degrees of formality. Help is English, aid is French, assist is Latin. Or, kingly is English, royal is French, regal is Latin – note how one imagines posture improving with each level: kingly sounds almost mocking, regal is straight-backed like a throne, royal is somewhere in the middle, a worthy but fallible monarch.”

David: Interesting linguistic analysis. But, as any geneticists will tell you: Twins – its a family thing!

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