Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Calque-ulated Post

If it wasn't for calques, we wouldn't be able to stop at the beer garden for some free verse on our way to the flea market to take a look see for a landscape masterpiece.

As defined by WordNet, a calque is "an expression introduced into one language by translating it from another language."

From -


noun, verb, calqued, calquing.

Linguistics – noun

1. a loan translation, esp. one resulting from bilingual interference in which the internal structure of a borrowed word or phrase is maintained but its morphemes are replaced by those of the native language, as German halbinsel for peninsula.

2. loanshift.

–verb (used with object)

3. to form (a word or phrase) through the process of loan translation.

1655–65; < F, n. deriv. of calquer to copy, based on the Italian calcare to trace over.

The English words listed in the first sentence above are translations of the following:

beer garden is from the German biergarten.

free verse is from the French vers libre.

flea market is from the French marché aux puces.

look-see is from the Chinese.

landscape is from the Dutch landschap.

masterpiece is from either the Dutch meesterstuk or the German meisterstück.

Calques are also known as loanwords or word borrowings and are word-for-word or literal translations. According to a Wikipedia article, "'calque' itself is a loanword from a French noun, and derives from the verb 'calquer' (to trace, to copy)."

Some more examples -

English Adam's apple calques French pomme d'Adam.

English crime of passion calques French crime passionel.

English Governor-General calques French Gouverneur Général.

English marriage of convenience calques French mariage de convenance.

English New Wave (artistic period) calques French Nouvelle Vague.

English rhinestone calques French caillou du Rhin "Rhine pebble".

English that goes without saying calques French cela va sans dire.

English point of view calques French point de vue.

And a neat fact -

J. R. R. Tolkien used the name "Bag End" as a calque of "cul-de-sac," to poke fun at the British use of French terms.


  1. Stan, Brussell Sprouts in France are
    called petits choux, lil cabbages. Just
    thought you needed to know that, and to
    call some one mon petit choux is a
    term of endearment -- don't call Mrs Stan
    my little cabbage, tho, it might lose something
    in the transliteration.

    Michael Dennis Mooney

  2. Thanks for the heads-up Michael - I'll remember that! LOL