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In another thread, someone wrote that word of a Latin word origin are considered more formal, and therefore used by more well educated English speakers, over words of Anglo-Saxon origin.

Do you believe this to be true?
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I don't think that most people are really that aware of the origins of the words they use, but we are all aware of what seems 'formal' or 'informal'. Also, well-educated people would use the appropriate word for the context, whether that be formal or informal. I don't see formal as 'educated' and informal as 'uneducated'. So I don't agree with that part of their statement. I think it is true that many of the more formal synonyms for anything, are often Latin in origin.

There are some interesting parallels of words of Saxon and Norman origin, with the Saxon word being the more peasant viewpoint, and the Norman word being the more gentry viewpoint, purely because of the Norman invasion. A lot of food names for example. Cow (the live animal you look after as a peasant) = Saxon. Beef (the nice stuff you get on you plate after someone else has raised it) = Norman. (as in Boeuf - French). Pig =Saxon. Pork = Norman.
Hi,
you guys seem to like that word, "educated"... hmm.
Anyway, I think most technical terms and verbs (used in medicine, engineering, mathematics, etc.) come from Latin, but I'm not sure. If it is true, then you could say Latin words are more... advanced, at another level of complexity in the language. Emotion: smile
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Grammar GeekIn another thread, someone wrote that word of a Latin word origin are considered more formal, and therefore used by more well educated English speakers, over words of Anglo-Saxon origin.

Do you believe this to be true?

If true, that would leave the highest percentage of English speakers as poorly-educated.
Well, personally, I think it's bunk that more highly educated people use formal language most of the time. We'd sound ridiculous if everyone with a master's degree spoke in a formal way when asking about dinner plans with your family or what time the softball game started.

Nona's point about the more well educated your are, the more you are likely to know the best word choice in a given situation - informal or formal - makes sense. The same post (not Nona's - the original) said that more formal language would be used by people who studied the etymology of the words. Again, Nona's point about most people not knowing the origin rings true to me too.

But what about this etymology part - are the Latin words more formal? Meet vs. Encounter? Happy vs. Pleased? Way vs. Method?
<Well, personally, I think it's bunk that more highly educated people use formal language most of the time. We'd sound ridiculous if everyone with a master's degree spoke in a formal way when asking about dinner plans with your family or what time the softball game started.>

Yes, it's bunk. Bunk, pure and simple.
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Hi GG

I think it is true in some cases that Latin words are a little more formal, but not nearly always. Some of the most common English words derive from Latin, like a pound.As the Normans represented the upper social classes and ruled England, it stands to reason that this is reflected in French loan words from that era - after all, French is just Latin gone bad Emotion: smile. Many words that made their way into English in the Norman period carry less warmth and feeling than Anglo-Saxon words from the Old English period.

Here are some examples. The words aren't exactly synonymous but they refer to things that are similar in some respects.

hearty - cordial
holy - saint
folk - people
house - manor, palace


As Nona has pointed out, the common people usually raised the animals but the French-speaking ruling classes ate the meat. Therefore the word for the meat is often of French origin:

calf - veal
ox - beef
sheep - mutton


One reason why French words, originally from Latin of course, may seem more formal is the fact that the loan words from the Norman era often have something to do with high culture, the arts, science, adminstration, titles, religion, law and legislation or are otherwise abstract in meaning. Examples of such words: judge, justice, jury, court, prison, council, parliament, residence, peer, duchess, religion, service, sermon, armour, costume, beauty, column, music, courtesy, mercy, charity, cruelty, obedience.

It is immediately clear from the above examples that not all words of Latin origin are formal.

Cheers
CB
<Many words that made their way into English in the Norman period carry less warmth and feeling than Anglo-Saxon words from the Old English period.

Here are some examples. The words aren't exactly synonymous but they refer to things that are similar in some respects.

hearty - cordial
holy - saint
folk - people
house - manor, palace>


How can we tell which word is warmer?
Let's not forget that much formality in English is not based on word meanings. We also create fomality by using the past tense of verbs and what are traditionally called the past tense of modal auxiliaries.
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