Monday, July 11, 2011

Etymological puzzles.

When staying in hotels in Asia, it is quite common to find that the hotel will offer a "baby sister service". This is exactly the same as a baby sitter, of course, and the expression makes sense because in places where people have large extended families, it is a task that is often by performed by a sister. "Baby sitter" doesn't appear to make much sense if you are a non-native English speaker, so the phrase has been transformed into another similar sounding phrase that we would see as incorrect, but which makes more sense in the context.

Similarly, perhaps, in Malaysia and Indonesia one will often stay in an institution called a "rest house". This is a place of accommodation that lacks the full facilities of a hotel, basically. The name makes perfect logical sense - this is after all a house in which you rest. I do wonder, though, whether the word actually comes from people with limited English mishearing the word "guesthouse", and thus converting it into something slightly different.


Patrick Crozier said...

This is the English of the future. Get with it Daddio!

M.H.TylerJones said...

There is also Denglish, the combination of German & English the Germans complain about so much and use so regularly.

By the way, "babysitter" makes sense literally for meerkats. Some adult meerkats always stay near the den to keep the pups our of trouble when the rest of the clan is foraging. When the pups get too obstreperous, that adults restrain them by sitting on them.

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