Saturday, July 6, 2013

More Fun With Lexical Borrowings!

As I relax here in Romania, I like to work on casually expanding my vocabulary by watching the news headlines on the television. My wife is a native speaker with excellent English, so if I ever see anything I don't know, I don't have to reach for my dictionary.

A year ago this time there was a curious political maneuver in which opponents of President Traian Băsescu managed temporarily to suspend his presidency pending a referendum on his performance. The news was running a retrospective on this interesting time. Băsescu went on to win the referendum and he'll finish out his final term. 

The news just ran a headline about the interim president, Crin Antonescu:

Antonescu, Perdantul Puciului din 2012. 

And here I didn't know the two key words to understanding the phrase.

I ask my wife and she informs me that Perdantul means "The Loser," and that it was borrowed from French perdant. But she doesn't know what Puciului is herself! From the context, it would seem that it must mean something like "the loser of the fight." 

Then I realized, this was another borrowing. This is the German word putsch, meaning a sudden, invariably failed attempt at a coup.

Now, from the moment they started their coup, Băsescu's opponents were outraged at the media treatment of the matter, which they felt was overwhelmingly against them and in favor of Băsescu. And it really was. It became very clear that they had all seriously underestimated just how popular and personable Băsescu had been to the press. And there were returning the favor by helping him out when he needed help the most.

I went back and saw that the press was using this term already last year to describe the opposition's action. There is no doubt that this word colors their attempted ouster of Băsescu as virtual fascism. After all, the most famous putsch of all is the Beer Hall Putsch, the Nazi's attempt in 1923 to seize power through violence in Munich.

While linguistically, fun, I doubt I'll commonly use these words!