Originally Posted by Michael J Hunt
WW, somewhere, in one of those books on the origins of English, is the reason why we have different words for the same things, especially on the farm and in the kitchen. As I recall it, post 1066, the Normans (who had suddenly become the boss people) called the cooked equivalents of farm animals by their French/Norman names 'porc', 'boeuf' - soon to become 'pork' and 'beef' - but the Anglo-Saxons, just as suddenly relegated to the lower divisions, retained 'pig' and 'cow'. Also, the more common trades tended to keep their Anglo-Saxon names - shoemaker, baker, miller - while the more skilled trades adopted the French terms - painter, tailor, mason. And so the two languages merged, together, of course, with those words from anywhere and everywhere the English roamed. The French prevent 'foreign' words from entering their language by Committee, the English open their language up to all-comers who can lay claim to having a word adopted by the people. Small wonder that English is the language chosen across the world for administration, business and communication purposes. That's why it's so fascinating to use and why the English are the worst people by far to bother to learn someone else's language - lazy sods that we are (I'm generalising here, but I do include myself, who can only boast a smattering of an obscure African language that I had to learn by necessity!)
I thought the reason English was chosen is because England imposed it on all the countries it invaded and conquered during its empire days and therefore many countries, to some extent, have it as a secondary language in common. That and the fact that the USA speaks English and for much of the 20th century have been the economic, military and political powerhouse of the world. Therefore any country wishing to do business with the biggest economic and political influence on the world found it advantageous to learn english.
I don't really think it has much to do with any inherent advantage or openess of the english language.