Throughout its development, the English language has cheerily been hijacking words from other cultures. But does it help or hinder web copy when we pluck a word from another tongue to add a bit of style to our text?
Maybe it makes sense if your brand is based on being related to a certain nation. Think Audi and ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’; not everyone will know what it means, but it’s clearly German and links the positive perceptions of German engineering to the brand.
But what if you’re throwing in a random foreign word because you can’t find the right one in English? If that’s the case, perhaps you need to think more simply (and that’s a good thing). Adding a word people may not understand makes you just that bit more inaccessible.
Uber-use of ‘uber’?
I love Nomensa’s brilliant work and the rest of the website’s copy, which is a great example of how plain English can be expressive and a joy to read. But I have my doubts about ‘10 reasons why it’s ‘uber’ to work at Nomensa‘.
Why did the team plump for ‘uber’? I’m not really sure. Okay, so ‘uber-‘ has been slowly creeping into English for quite a while (the umlaut disappeared ages ago) and most people will get it. But it could still create a barrier for readers not familiar with the word.
Also, ‘uber’ is not usually used on its own; it’s a combining form, like ‘ubernerd’ or ‘uber-cool place’. So it’s uber-what to work at Nomensa? Of course, I get the sentiment; maybe I’m just being picky. Or was this a choice to sound ‘cool’ rather than using the descriptive language found elsewhere on the site?
Making brands look foreign
If adding actual words from other languages isn’t enough, you could always make up some of your own. In fact, all those spare umlauts no longer needed on ‘uber’ have been put to good use in some creative branding (think Gü).
As The Guardian reported, British companies have embraced the two little dots to add an ‘exotic’ European touch (and sense of quality) to their names. But while English speakers can still easily pronounce the words, they haven’t always found them endearing.
What do you think? Does slipping in a foreign word add to web copy? Are you happy to see it on a brand page, but not so much if an English alternative works just as well?