Every time we speak, we travel. English is a polyglot language derived from many tongues and made of an ever-expanding lexicon of borrowed words picked up like souvenirs from all corners of the globe.
As Merriam-Webster, the venerable dictionary publisher, puts it: "English is, by any reckoning, a very large language. No one is entirely certain how many words it contains (since it is very difficult to get everyone to agree on how to count them), but general estimates are somewhere in the neighborhood of a million. . . . English has shown a remarkable ability to assimilate words from all over."
To celebrate this wonderful diversity, Merriam-Webster has posted on its website a quiz about word origins.
Users are given 12 words—moped, cookie, pajama, and so on—and asked to guess where they sprang from.
Along the way, quiz takers learn some fascinating background on the stuff we say. Merriam-Webster notes, for instance, that karaoke is a hybrid or "mule word" containing elements of two languages: "It comes from the Japanese word kara (meaning empty) and oke, . . . short for okestura, taken directly from our English word orchestra."
Okay, we won't give any more answers away. Eyes on your own paper.
To give the quiz a try, visit Merriam-Webster.com.