Several months ago, I had a nice little disagreement with a relative over the term "High Tea". I said that some upscale hotels in the United States use the term "High Tea" which is the equivalent of English "Afternoon Tea" and not English "High Tea", and my point was that the American usage for this term, while not correct by the English, was developing enough of a currency in America that it could be considered correct in America.
(Apparently, when American's use the term "High Tea", they mean "High" as in "High Society", while the British use the term "High Tea" to mean that it is served on high tables, which is "supper" and not Low Tea or Afternoon tea, which is served on low tables, or coffee tables in the living room.)
My relative, of course, claimed that Americans were just "wrong" and the term had only one correct meaning and that was the British meaning.
My point was that words are flexible and ever changing based on new -- and sometimes incorrect -- usages.
This made me think -- are there other terms which are borrowed from other languages -- incorrectly -- which are now considered correct?
Has this topic been addressed in "Word A Day" before?
Haven't seen this topic here before. 'High Tea' seems to go wrong whenever it leaves England. In Holland High tea is also misunderstood. Is associated with the 3 tier trays that I see used for Afternoon Tea and hardly anyone knows High Tea means the evening meal.
I never knew the heights of the table played a distinctive part in this. Good for a reminder!
I bet there are many borrowed word in all languages that are used in a correct incorrect way.
the British use the term "High Tea" to mean that it is served on high tables, which is "supper" and not Low Tea or Afternoon tea, which is served on low tables
I've never heard that! Thanks, and welcome aBoard, Dale.
Yes, this topic's been discussed before but it's always fun to see the new ones people've thought up. We just had one not long ago: chaise longue, which has appeared as chaise lounge in English for so long that even Miss Know-it-all
didn't realise it was incorrect.
There's a whole class of words that have a generic meaning in the language we stole them from but become specific to a particular style of the thing they referred to in that language when used in English. Sometimes they even change grammatically. Feta, e.g., is Greek for cheese, but refers to a specific type of cheese in English. Panini is the generic word for sandwiches (plural) in Italian, but refers to a specific type of sandwich in English. Even further afield, scampi is Italian for shrimp (again, plural) but refers to a cooking style, often, but not exclusively, used for shrimp in English.
I had no idea that there was a British difference for High Tea to the American one :S And I live in Britain. I guess the only time I've heard it used though is when my American aunt took he to High Tea at a posh hotel on her birthday. Never knowningly had to distinguish between tea in the afternoon and tea at the table.
I did spend a lot of time recently looking into the accidental expropriation of words from ancestors that result in redundant usages. The most famous in England is probably River Avon, where Avon is a Celtic word for a type of river. Same for Rivers Humber in Canada. Lake Laguna, Table Mesa. Orkney Islands, where the -ey is an ancient suffix that meant 'island'.
... and the one that winds me up is when people refer to "the PIN number" for a credit/debit card. PIN stands for Personal Identification NUMBER, so the usual phrase is a tautology - just like your examples, Kwaly.
Redundancy is our friend. All languages are filled with redundancies of one sort or another. ATM machine is one example. The value of that redundancy is that there are other things in the ATM universe, such as ATM card, and specifying that you are talking about the machine itself can be an important thing. Also, saying ATM machine makes it clear that you do not mean the expansion of ATM to be Asynchronous Transfer Mode, a point that may or may not be entirely clear from context. Another common redundancy of this sort is the phrase AC current. In this case it is important to distinguish it from AC voltage. This latter phrase could be disparaged as being a contradiction in terms, but to do so would be as inane as disparaging AC current as redundant.
Other types of redundancy that are common in various languages include subject/verb agreement, use of a plural form of a noun when a plural determiner is attached to the noun, and agreement in number, gender, and case in adjectives with their corresponding nouns. Failure to use these redundancies is a mark of ungrammatical usage.