technological words

I had a thought while I was working the other day, and it really astounded me for a few seconds, but then I realized that it probably wasn’t that interesting. Nonetheless, here it is.

Languages track technological development. For example, computers, in their first form, were largely developed in the United States and Britain during WWII. Unsurprisingly, this word was then imported to other languages who needed a word to denote what had been up until that point, nonexistent. So, computer in German is “der Computer” even though apparently, German tried to institute its own homegrown word, “die Datenverarbeitungsanlage,” which roughly means “the data working device.” (wonder why that didn’t catch on?). Also, in Japanese, computer is KONPYUTA, spelled in script that indicates that it is a loan word.

So, the provisional thesis is that the group that develops a technology gets to have their discovery immortalized forever in the language that they spoke. A small piece of historical research confirms this. In Europe, aqueducts were introduced by the Romans (and named by them), and so, unsurprisingly, we still use this word today, and it survives in French and German as well.


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