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Hal­lar and Flat­u­lence

The Span­ish hal­lar (“to find”) comes from the Latin af­flare (“to blow.”) From that same Latin root we get var­i­ous f‑l words in­volv­ing blow­ing, in­clud­ing:

  • Flat­u­lence — A fart, af­ter all, is just blow­ing some air!
  • Souf­fle — With the French pre­fix sous- (“un­der”), a souf­fle is cooked by blow­ing hot air un­der the foot!
  • Con­flate — To blow dif­fer­ent things to­geth­er!
  • In­flate — To blow-up the num­bers!

All of these share the f‑l root. But how did this turn in­to the Span­ish hal­lar? Well, first re­mem­ber that the ini­tial F- sound tend­ed to dis­ap­pear when Latin turned in­to Span­ish; see, fig and hi­go or fa­ble and hablar. Sec­ond­ly, note that find­ing some­thing is just blow­ing on it, un­cov­er­ing what was be­low the dust you blew away!

Ayu­dar and Young

Al­though ayu­dar (Span­ish for “to help”) sounds lit­tle like the Eng­lish “young”, both have the same great-grand­fa­ther.

Ayu­dar comes from the Latin adi­utare al­so mean­ing “to help”, which in turn comes from ad- (mean­ing “to­wards”) and iu­ve­nis, mean­ing “young”. To help, af­ter all, is — at its core — what those with strength (the young) do for the el­der­ly and those who can’t help them­selves. Iu­ve­nis is of­ten writ­ten with the mod­ern Latin-ish spelling of Ju­ve­nis — ah­hh! Think Ju­ve­nal!

The Latin iu­ve­nis comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *yeu-, which means “youth, strength”. From that root we get the Ger­man­ic jun­gas, from which we get the Eng­lish young.

So youth, seem­ing­ly every­where, is strong­ly tied to strength; and strength is tied to help­ing those who need it.

Es­puma and Scum

Es­puma (Span­ish for “foam”) is a (sur­pris­ing) cousin of the Eng­lish, scum.

Both come from the same In­do-Eu­ro­pean root skeu-, which meant, “to cov­er, hide.” In the Ger­man­ic side of In­do-Eu­ro­pean, this evolved in­to sku­ma — lit­er­al­ly “foam” — which then evolved in­to scum.

Tran­si­tion from the mean­ing of “foam” in the old Ger­man­ic to the cur­rent mean­ing hap­pened be­cause of the sense of “foam”: the lay­er above the liq­uid” turned in­to “a lay­er of dirt on top of some­thing clean­er”. And that then evolved in­to just pure dirt. Words de­grade over time, at least in Eng­lish.

The In­do-Eu­ro­pean skeu- sep­a­rate­ly evolved in­to es­puma (via the Latin spuma, al­so just mean­ing neu­tral­ly “foam”) which — still to­day — re­tains the more neu­tral con­no­ta­tion of just foam.

Ame­nazar and Mine

Ame­nazar (Span­ish for “to threat­en”) has a cu­ri­ous ori­gin: from the Latin mine, mean­ing, “lead” or some­times “sil­ver.” Re­mem­ber, this was the ma­te­r­i­al that weapons — swords, ar­row­heads, etc — were made of. If you don’t com­ply with my threat–I will hurt you!

Al­though this is­n’t di­rect­ly re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish mine (the place where you get sil­ver!), they might have the same orig­i­nal root–and it is an easy mnemon­ic. Af­ter all, we mine sil­ver in the mines.

Em­ba­ja­da and Em­bassy

Em­bassy (and Am­bas­sador) and its Span­ish equiv­a­lent, Em­ba­ja­da (and Em­ba­jador), both come from the same an­ces­tor, the Old French Am­bac­tos.

What is most in­ter­est­ing about these two is that it is an ex­am­ple of the pat­tern where the ‑j- sound in Span­ish maps to the ‑sh- sound (and its cousins, like ‑ss- and ‑ch-) in Eng­lish. Re­mem­ber syrup and jarabe, chess and aje­drez, sher­ry and jerez, and push and em­pu­jar for a few ex­am­ples.

Thus, the m‑b-j of emaba­ja­da maps to the m‑b-ss of em­bassy.

Acatar and Cap­ture

The Span­ish Acatar (mean­ing “to fol­low, obey, re­spect”) comes from the Latin captare, mean­ing “to cap­ture, take hold of”. From that root, we get a few Eng­lish words, in­clud­ing:

  • Cap­ture — sur­prise, sur­prise.
  • Ca­pa­ble — if you’re ca­pa­ble, you take hold of the so­lu­tions!
  • Cap­tive — if you’re cap­tive, some­one else has tak­en hold of you!
  • Cater — the cater­er is lit­er­al­ly the per­son who takes hold of the food for you.

The c-℗t root is vis­i­ble in all, al­though the ‑p- in the ‑pt- has been lost in a few vari­a­tions.

Man­cha and Im­mac­u­late

The Span­ish man­cha (“spot” or “stain”) comes from the Latin for the same, mac­u­la.

From the Latin mac­u­la, we get the Eng­lish… im­mac­u­late — which lit­er­al­ly means (know­ing the nega­tion pre­fix of im-) “with­out a stain.” So the im­mac­u­late con­cep­tion tru­ly was per­fect!

How this sound changed was in­ter­est­ing: of­ten Latin words with a ct- or cl- or oth­er hard let­ters af­ter a c- sound turn in­to a suave ch in Span­ish. For a dis­tant ex­am­ple, see duct and ducha, or noc­tur­nal and noche. (The ct- is much more com­mon than the cl‑, but they’re cousins!) Thus, we can see the m‑ch of man­cha map­ping to the (im-)m‑cl of im­mac­u­late.

Pe­gar and Pi­tu­itary and Fat

The Span­ish pe­gar (“to paste”) comes from the Latin pix, mean­ing “tar.” That makes sense: “paste” looks like just a more dilu­at­ed “tar.”

But pix it­self comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root pei(e), which meant, fat — think of an­i­mal fat, for ex­am­ple. It makes sense that this word evolved in­to a word mean­ing “tar”: that’s a bit what an­i­mal fat looks like.

From this same root pei(e), we get a few no­table Eng­lish words:

  • Fat — Fat it­self comes from this root! This is through the PIE p- sound trans­form­ing in­to the f- sound as it evolved in­to Ger­man and Eng­lish. Think about father/padre, for ex­am­ple.
  • Pi­tu­itary — The same root came back in, via an ed­u­cat­ed Latin, to mean, the pi­tu­itary gland. Why? Be­cause the an­cients be­lieved that this slimy gland is what pro­duced mucous/snot — the smile of the nose. A bit like tar, is­n’t it? We can see the P- root pre­served here, too.

Apos­tar — Po­si­tion, Posit

Apos­tar, Span­ish for “to bet”, sounds noth­ing like bet or any re­lat­ed Eng­lish word.

But it turns out to be a close cousin of Posit and Po­si­tion: Bet­ting is in­deed just an ex­treme form of putting forth a po­si­tion or posit­ing some­thing — lit­er­al­ly putting your mon­ey where your mouth is.

All come from the same Latin, po­si­tionem, which come from the Latin root verb ponere (“to put”)  from which we al­so get the Span­ish for the same, pon­er.

Reírse and Ridicu­lous

Both the Span­ish reírse (“to laugh”) and the Eng­lish ridicu­lous come from the same Latin root: rid­ere (al­so “to laugh”).

Thus, the r‑vow­el-d-vow­el of ridicu­lous maps to the r‑vow­el-dis­ap­peared-vow­el of reírse. Note that the mid­dle ‑d- dis­ap­peared in the Span­ish ver­sion, prob­a­bly as the word was short­ened since the Spaniards spent so much time laugh­ing, it be­came nat­ur­al to say it short­er and quick­er!


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