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Novmber 8, 1976

Word Origins

JAMA. 1976;236(19):2212-2213. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270200050034

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There is little question that the American language was derived mainly from the English by the colonists who settled the eastern seaboard. That is not saying much, because English itself is a polyglot as a consequence of original language variations in the isles and the repeated infusions of new tongues by invaders and missionaries. Also, as time passed, our language acquired new words, first from the Indians, next through contacts with French and Spanish colonists, and finally through immigrants coming from all parts of the world. Additional factors include legitimatization of expressions that originated as slang, argot, or cant and the inventiveness that most languages require and that especially characterizes one as rich as the American language.

To some extent, at least, medical language has not been influenced so strongly to expand. Originally, Latin was the lingua franca of medicine, and Americanization (Anglicization, if you prefer) of Latin terms changed