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Wordspotting: commercant Login/Join
 
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Picture of shufitz
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Spotted a word that isn't in any of the one-look dictionaries or in OED. Apparently it's from French. Can anyone help?
    He [Ned Lamont] was a cable television entrepreneur, a run-of-the-mill commercant with unusually easy access to capital.
    - Marvin Peretz, editor and chief of The New Republic, in Wall Street Journal, Aug. 7, 2006, p.A12 col.3
 
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By entering commercant into Google, I got some four million ghits, the first of which is in French, with a link that says Translate this page.

My French/English dictionary says if it's a noun it means "merchant, businessman, shopkeeper." As an adjective it's "commercial, mercantile," or "trading."
 
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Perhaps also synonomous with industrialist or entrepreneur?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Seanahan:
Perhaps also synonomous with industrialist or entrepreneur?


With so many adequate English words available I wonder why the distinguished journalist tries to introduce a fancy, French word.

Fowler (Kings English) commented:
"what a writer effects by using these ornaments is to make us imagine him telling us he is a wise fellow and one that hath everything handsome about him, including a gentlemanly acquaintance with the French language. Some illustrations follow"
 
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The Conquest in 1066 brought about ten thousand French words into the English language, Shu.

Brush up on them in preparation for your trip to France and you should do okay linguistically.

BTW, another example of mixing languages occurs when airline flight attendants make their pre-landing announcements on airplanes about to land in Hawaii, often ending those announcements with "Mahalo," which is Hawaiian for "Thank you."

To my way of thinking they'd show more sophistication by using one language or the other -- not both.
 
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The Conquest in 1066 brought about ten thousand French words into the English language, Shu.


Yes, but not commercant, which is apparently a modern borrowing. Just because we have some French words doesn't mean we have to arbitrarily stick in new ones, especially when there are numerous English words to do the job.
 
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quote:
Just because we have some French words doesn't mean we have to arbitrarily stick in new ones, especially when there are numerous English words to do the job.

Ah, but that is the great strength of our mongrel language. English has no problem with borrowing other languages' words and trying them out to see if they'll fit. That's why English is now the world's most powerful and important language, whereas, say, French, once English's equal, is now steadily becoming less important.

Commercant may, or may not catch on. If it does, then fine; if it doesn't, then also fine - we can use our existing words.


Richard English
 
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entrepreneur
This is another borrowing from French, first seen in modern times in 1828. However, it first crossed the Channel around 1475, but didn't catch on.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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