Borrow / Lend

So using “borrow” to mean “lend” is simply a dialectical variation, strongly centered in Minnesota. I’m sure that even as we speak there are people out there ranting against this deviant usage as a harbinger of the lang-pocalypse and the consequent death of civilization, but I can’t get terribly cranked up about it. It’s not like the government got confused about “borrow” and “lend” and started giving trillions of dollars to big banks.

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7 comments on this post.
  1. Yael:

    My native tongue, Hebrew – which works on the root system, where [mostly] 3-consonant roots are fitted into various ‘molds’ (I’m sure there’s a more professional way to describe this, but I’m not familiar enough with the terminology) – has the same root for borrowing and lending, in two different verb molds. Oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly?), the same kind of confusion happens here, too, with people using the ‘borrow’ verb form instead of the ‘lend’ one.

  2. Ben Wrankle:

    In Viennese German (at least, which is the sort I’m most familiar with), the words “borgen” (borrow) and “leihen” (lend) are sometimes confused. As I think of it, though, it seems something that happens mostly among children there as well.

  3. gilly-yo:

    Well, I don’t think this is the first sign of a langpocalypse…and I won’t get worked up about it because I have to agree with the education-level point made in DARE. Unfortunately perhaps for some regional purists, if I heard someone confound (the widely-accepted usage of) “borrow” with “lend” (or “teach” with “learn,” which I have also heard), I would make serious assumptions (right or not) about his level of education (and assume it to be little). Unless it was a hipster trying to be ironic. Then I would just assume he was kind of an ass.

  4. Simon:

    This reversal is also common next door in Wisconsin, but discouraged. I remember well my school teachers harping on classmates when they would ask things like “Could you borrow me a pencil?”

    Many in my rural area never outgrew the habit, though.

  5. Jean:

    I moved to Minnesota (St. Paul, not rural) in 1989. I was confused when I first heard borrow used in place of loan or lend. Then I heard it, again and again. It always came from the people who grew up in Minnesota. The transplants from other states never used borrow/lend/loan in this way. “Can I borrow a pencil?” sounds correct to me, but “Can you borrow me a pencil?” grated on me! No matter what I said, the people who use this phrase felt they were right and were not interested in changing their ways. You betcha I tried though!

  6. Mike H:

    The word for borrow and lend in Norwegian (lane with the circle over the a)is the same and since Danish and Swedish are similar I think it got carried over from the settlers.Just like people always say ‘come with’ or ‘go with’ seems to have been carried over by the German influence.I moved to Minnesota from Michigan in 1995 and grew up in Ohio.

  7. Jo Lee Penny:

    I remember that in early elementary grades we were given grammar tests with choices of borrow/lend, taught/learned, and so on. At that time I didn’t know anyone who confused either of those choices and so assumed that they were put there just to make the tests easier. Since then, though, I’ve discovered the Judge Judy people.

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