Loose grammar

English doesn’t “borrow” from other languages: it follows them down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar and valuable vocabulary.

This is a common paraphrasing of something writer James Nicoll composed in a discussion group many moons ago (source long gone):

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

According to Nicoll, who emailed me about it, the short version “is off a t-shirt (they changed the phrasing to avoid paying me) and it was attributed to Pratchett by someone creating a motivational poster after Pratchett died.”