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Today's Word



Oct 15, 2018
This week’s theme
Words borrowed from Native American languages

This week’s words

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with Anu Garg

What language is spoken in America? English, you say, and you’re right, but only partially. It’s also the home of hundreds of Native American languages, many of which are endangered. The juggernaut of English flattens other languages along the way, though it picks up words from them as it rolls past.

Some of the words from these Native American languages have now become a part of the English language. This week we’ll see five such words, from Algonquin, Choctaw, Eastern Abenaki, Massachusett, and Ojibwa languages.



adjective: Rustic; folksy; countrified.
noun: Unleavened corn bread, baked or fried.

From English corn + Virginia Algonquian apones (bread). The s in apones was dropped to make the word singular. Some other originally singular words that again became singular in English are cherry (from French cerise) and pea (from Latin pisa). Earliest documented use: 1860.

“None of those college students [of the band Crooked Still] had mountain blood or cornpone accents, and not a single one could build or operate a still, but it hardly mattered.”
Bernard Zuel; College Kids Can’t Get Enough of Big Twang Theory; Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); Mar 25, 2011.

“Jerry Richardson’s apology was perhaps less than heartfelt. ‘If our African-American guests were mistreated, was it because of racism?’ he wondered aloud. ‘I can’t tell you. It’s impossible to know what’s in a person’s heart.’
That’s so dang cornpone.”
Michael Powell; A Fine, Yes. But the NFL Can’t Even Muster a Mean Word; The New York Times; Jun 29, 2018.

See more usage examples of cornpone in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

In the mountains of truth you will never climb in vain: either you will get up higher today or you will exercise your strength so as to be able to get up higher tomorrow. -Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, philosopher (15 Oct 1844-1900)

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