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Hechizo and Fetish

The Span­ish hechizo (“spell”; noth­ing to do with the let­ters in words, but what a witch casts on you!) comes from the Latin fac­ti­cius (“made by art”; “ar­ti­fi­cial” — in­deed, that which is ar­ti­fi­cial is just some­thing not oc­cur­ring nat­u­ral­ly but in­stead made by art!).

But how did ar­ti­fi­cial change to mean “spell”? Think about it this way: cast­ing a spell goes against na­ture — it’s what the wicked, crazy and pro­found­ly un­nat­ur­al woman does! Think of the three weird sis­ters in Mac­beth, and how they un­nat­u­ral­ly stir up all the el­e­ments!

From hechizo (more specif­i­cal­ly, from it’s Por­tuguese twin cog­nate, feitiço), we get the Eng­lish fetish. How? Well, you have a fetish when the re­cip­i­ent casts a spell on you to be­come ob­sessed with the ob­ject of your fetish, right? Enough said!

That root fac­ti­cius turned in­to hechizo by chang­ing via two com­mon pat­terns: the ini­tial F in Latin tend­ed to turn in­to an H as Latin turned in­to Span­ish (com­pare fig and hi­go, or fume and hu­mo!) and the ‑ct- tend­ed to change to a ‑ch- (com­pare noche and noc­tur­al; or ocho and oc­ta­gon). Thus the h‑ch of hechizo maps to the f‑sh of fetish.

Gremio and Con­gre­gate

Gremio (Span­ish for “union,”, in the sense of work­ers, unite!; for­mer­ly “guild”–which is re­al­ly just an old-school union!) comes from the Latin Gremi­um, mean­ing “round.” How did this trans­for­ma­tion hap­pen? Well, a round pen was where you held on­to things; it turned in­to the word for where peo­ple got to­geth­er, which turned in­to guild (a com­mon rea­son peo­ple got to­geth­er!) and then, even­tu­al­ly, to mean union.

How­ev­er, it gets much more in­ter­est­ing. The Latin gremi­um comes from the pro­to-in­do-eu­ro­pean root *ger- mean­ing.… to get to­geth­er! From this root, we al­so get (via Greek) words like con­gre­gate (to bring peo­ple to­geth­er) and seg­re­gate (to bring peo­ple apart!).

Thus, gremio took an in­ter­est­ing turn over the last few thou­sand years: from the mean­ing con­gre­gate to round to con­gre­gate again!

We can see the g‑r root clear­ly in gremio as well as con­gre­gate and seg­re­gate.

Yer­no and Genus

Yer­no (Span­ish for “son-in-law”) at first sounds like noth­ing in Eng­lish.

But let’s look clos­er! The g- and y- sounds are of­ten mixed up be­tween lan­guages and even re­gions that speak the same lan­guage; in fact, the Old Eng­lish g- trans­formed it­self in­to a y- over time (com­pare the Ger­man gestern with the Eng­lish yes­ter­day, for ex­am­ple). And the n‑r sound not un­com­mon­ly swaps to be­come an r‑n sound, the two are eas­i­ly mixed up, es­pe­cial­ly in slurred speech.

Thus, the bizarre-sound­ing y‑r-n root of yer­no maps to the g‑n-r root of gener­ic (Maybe sons-in-laws are more gener­ic in Span­ish cul­tures than Eng­lish ones?) as well as genus (which lost the fi­nal r-) — yes, genus as in Latin and now sci­en­tif­ic clas­si­fi­ca­tion of your spot in the uni­verse! The son-in-law, I guess, is des­tined to be the son-in-law as his lot-in-life.

Go­ta and Gout, Gut­ter

Go­ta, Span­ish for “drop” comes from the Latin gut­ta for the same. From this  root we al­so get the Eng­lish gout and… gut­ter. What is gout, af­ter all, if not a pain that is a con­stant drip or a gut­ter, if not a col­lec­tion of dirty wa­ter drops? The g‑l sounds are con­sis­tent among all vari­a­tions.

Es­con­der and Ab­scond

Es­con­der (Span­ish for “to hide”) comes from the Latin ab- (“away”) and con­dere (“to put to­geth­er”). Hid­ing is, af­ter all, just a form of putting your­self away from every­one else!

From the same root we get the less com­mon Eng­lish ab­scond, “to se­cret­ly run away to avoid cap­ture.” That is just hiding–but tak­en to the ex­treme!

Guiller­mo — William

The “W” sound is a clas­sic Ger­man­ic and An­glo-sax­on sound. Harsh, it is.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, the Ger­man­ic and Eng­lish words with the w- be­come the gu- sound as these words evolved in­to Span­ish. Yes, in this case, the Ger­man­ic and Eng­lish words — cen­turies ago — made its way back in­to Span­ish rather than the more com­mon pat­tern of vice-ver­sa!

One ex­am­ple: the name William maps to the Span­ish name… Guiller­mo. I first dis­cov­ered this be­cause I was once in a book­store in Buenos Aires and there was a book “En­rique IV” by “Guiller­mo Shake­speare”. I need­ed about a minute to fig­ure out what was hap­pen­ing (En­rique is Span­ish for Hen­ry).

Mez­cla and Promis­cu­ous

Mez­cla (Span­ish for “mix”) comes from the Latin mis­cere, mean­ing, “to mix.” You can en­vi­sion the sound change when you re­mem­ber that the ‑sc- sound sounds and even looks like the let­ter ‑zc-!

From the same Latin root mis­cere we get the Eng­lish, promis­cu­ous — just mis­cere with the em­pha­sis pre­fix pro-, so it lit­er­al­ly means “to mix in­dis­crim­i­nate­ly.” What does a promis­cu­ous girl (or, um­mm, guy) do if not mix with any­one with­out dis­crim­i­nat­ing be­tween them that much?

The m‑z-c of mez­cla clear­ly maps to the m‑s-c of promis­cu­ous.

Coche — Coach

The Span­ish for “car”, coche, on the sur­face sounds noth­ing like the Eng­lish for the same — or any sim­i­lar word.

But et­y­mo­log­i­cal­ly, it comes from the same root as the Eng­lish, coach. Think of it in the old-fash­ioned sense of: the coach class on a train!

All come from the same root: the Hun­gar­i­an koc­si (Hun­gar­i­an is un­re­lat­ed to Eng­lish or Span­ish, so there is no deep­er root), named af­ter the vil­lage where the first coach, in the very old sense — a large car­riage — was cre­at­ed.

It’s in­ter­est­ing how coach has been down­grad­ed as a word in Eng­lish: it was first the lux­u­ri­ous way to trav­el, and now it is the econ­o­my class of a train.

Través and Con­vert

Través — in the clas­sic phrase, a través de (“go­ing through”) — comes from the Latin trans­ver­sus, which is just the pre­fix trans- (“through”) with vert­ere (“to turn”).

Here is where it gets in­ter­est­ing. From the same root vert­ere, we get all of the vert- Eng­lish words, such as: con­vert, in­vert, di­vert, ver­te­brae. All do in­volve turn­ing, in one form or an­oth­er.

This one does­n’t have a map­ping that is easy, since on­ly the v- sur­vives, since the trans- lost the ‑ns- and the r‑t-r of vert­ere dis­ap­peared, leav­ing us with just… v. But we should re­mem­ber that the v‑, and much more of­ten the v‑r or v‑r-t is just that some­thing is turn­ing, con­vert­ing in­to some­thing else.

Sol­er and In­so­lent

In­so­lent de­rives from the Latin pre­fix in- (mean­ing, “the op­po­site of,” of course) and the Latin root sol­ere, mean­ing, “to be used to (do­ing some­thing).” So, an in­so­lent man is lit­er­al­ly some­one who is used to not do­ing the things he is ex­pect­ed to do. That sounds pret­ty in­so­lent to me!

From the same Latin root, we get the Span­ish sol­er mean­ing “to be used to (do­ing some­thing)” just like the orig­i­nal Latin root, be­fore the nega­tion. So next time you hear in Span­ish, Sue­lo… (“I’m used to…”) you should think, “Don’t be in­so­lent!”. No one will get the pun oth­er than you, me, and our fel­low ForNerds fans.

Note that this has no re­la­tion to the Span­ish sue­lo mean­ing, “ground”, which comes from the Latin solum.


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