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Hablar and Fa­ble

hablar spanish talk
The Span­ish “hablar” (“to talk”) comes from the vul­gar Latin “fab­u­lari”, al­so mean­ing, “to talk” — hence the Eng­lish, “fa­ble”.

This gets very in­ter­est­ing very quick­ly, so note:

  • This is an ex­am­ple of the “f” to “h” con­ver­sion, in which the ini­tial “f” sound was lost as Latin turned in­to Span­ish
  • There was a fas­ci­nat­ing par­al­lel process as vul­gar Latin, a bit to the north, turned in­to French: an­oth­er Latin word for “talk­ing”, “parabo­lari” turned in­to the French for the same, “par­lere”, so “par­ler” (as in, “par­lez-vous fran­cias?”) is re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish word “para­bles”
  • And is­n’t there a con­cep­tu­al sim­i­lar­i­ty be­tween “para­ble” and “fa­ble”? Both meant, “to tell sto­ries”: so, in both lan­guages, an ex­ag­ger­at­ed form of talk­ing, sto­ry-telling, over time turned in­to the com­mon word for talk­ing.

Anil­lo and Anus

Let’s try not to laugh with this one.

The Span­ish end­ing -il­lo is a com­mon dimi­nu­itive, mean­ing a small­er ver­sion of some­thing. A ve­ci­no is a neigh­bor; a vecinil­lo is the cute word that Flan­ders calls his neigh­bors in the Span­ish trans­la­tion of the Simp­sons.

So: anus means anus. And anil­lo — the very com­mon Span­ish word mean­ing “ring” — is thus re­al­ly just “lit­tle anus.”

Yes, in Span­ish, a ring is just a small anus.

Par and Peer, Pair, Dis­par­age

The Span­ish for “equal”, par, has a few use­ful par­al­lels in Eng­lish. All — in Span­ish and Eng­lish — come from the same Latin root par mean­ing “equal”.

  • Pair — A pair is re­al­ly two equals to­geth­er, lit­er­al­ly.
  • Peer — Your peer is some­one who is your equal, or at least at an equal lev­el to you.
  • Dis­par­age — is lit­er­al­ly to note that some­one is not your equal, with the dis- neg­a­tive pre­fix be­fore the p‑r root.

In all of these, we can see the p‑r map­ping con­sis­tent­ly and eas­i­ly.

Nieve and Snow

Both the Span­ish nieve and the Eng­lish for the same, snow, come from the same root, al­though via very dif­fer­ent routes.

In Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean, the an­cient an­ces­tor to both Span­ish (PIE turned in­to Latin then Span­ish) and Eng­lish (PIE al­so turned in­to an­cient Ger­man­ic then Eng­lish), the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean *snieg­wh for snow gave rise to both the Latin nivis — which turned in­to the Span­ish nieve — and the old Ger­man sneo which be­came the Eng­lish snow.

Thus, the n‑v of nieve maps ex­act­ly to the n‑w of snow. The key sound change, which is what can con­fuse us, is the loss of the ini­tial s- as the word trans­formed from PIE in­to Latin and then Span­ish.

En­con­trar — Ac­quaint

Al­though en­con­trar, the com­mon Span­ish word for “to meet”, does­n’t sound like its Eng­lish coun­ter­part, it does have an un­ex­pect­ed first cousin: ac­quaint.

Both come from the same Latin root for the same (in con­tra), al­though the Eng­lish one comes to us via the French in­flu­ence: acoin­tier.

Thus, we can see that the en-c-n-t‑r maps to a‑c­qu-n‑t some­what close­ly: the fi­nal -r dis­ap­peared as the French word evolved in­to the Eng­lish word, and the open­ing en- (in- in Latin) be­came the sim­pler a-.

Some­one you meet, af­ter all, is in­deed your ac­quain­tance.

There is, how­ev­er, an­oth­er Eng­lish word that is clos­er to en­con­trar al­though per­haps less ob­vi­ous un­til you hear it: en­counter!

Morder — Re­morse

The Span­ish morder, “to bite”, sounds com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent than any­thing in Eng­lish (ex­cept for ob­scure SAT words like mor­dant — which lit­er­al­ly means, bit­ing!).

But who would’ve thunk that it’s re­lat­ed to re­morse.

Re­morse comes from the Latin re­mordere, which means, “to bite back” — from the ear­li­er re- (the pre­fix mean­ing “back” in this case) and mordere, from which we get, morder.

The re­morse­ful do bite back in­deed!

Aprovecharse and Prof­it

The Span­ish aprovecharse (“to take ad­van­tage of,” in a good way) comes from the Latin ad- (“to­wards”) and pro­fec­tus (“progress, suc­cess.”)

From the same root pro­fec­tus, we get the Eng­lish… prof­it.

We can see the root pr‑v of aprovecharse map­ping to the pr‑f of prof­it. And how do you make a prof­it if not, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties in front of you?

Pere­jil and Pars­ley

Pere­jil and its Eng­lish ver­sion pars­ley sound very dif­fer­ent. But they are, ac­tu­al­ly, et­y­mo­log­i­cal­ly the same word.

They sound dif­fer­ent be­cause of­ten the ‑s- and ‑sh- sounds in Span­ish turned in­to the let­ter ‑j- with the Ara­bic throat clear­ing sound as a pro­nun­ci­a­tion. Thus, the p‑r-j‑l of pere­jil maps ex­act­ly to the p‑r-s‑l of pars­ley.

Nom­bre and Nom­i­nal

The usu­al Span­ish word for “name”, nom­bre, is very close­ly re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish word nom­i­nal, in an in­ter­est­ing way. Not on­ly does nom­i­nal­ly mean “re­lat­ing to the name”, but there is an in­ter­est­ing et­y­mo­log­i­cal pat­tern be­tween the words.

Latin words with an m‑n sound usu­al­ly turned the m‑n in­to an mbr sound as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish. Thus, we see cu­ri­ous pat­terns like hominem be­com­ing hom­bre, and famine and ham­bre be­ing close­ly linked.

The same pat­tern ap­plies here. The Latin nom­i­nalis turned in­to the Span­ish nom­bre and the Eng­lish nom­i­nal — thus the n‑m-n of nom­i­nal maps ex­act­ly to the n‑mbr of nom­bre!

Fal­lar and Flat­u­lent

To­day’s et­y­mo­log­i­cal com­par­i­son is a bit weird, but one I love. Fal­lar is Span­ish for “to fail” and Flat­u­lent is, well, a fan­cy word for “fart­ing.”

Both come from the Latin Flare, mean­ing, “to blow.” A fart is def­i­nite­ly a type of blow­ing; and fail­ing at some­thing be­ing con­sid­ered a type of blow­ing is a com­mon im­age in lan­guages around the world: think about Bart Simp­son, in our own lan­guage, say­ing, That Blows!

The f‑l root makes the re­la­tion­ship clear in both words.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, from the same Latin root Flare, we al­so get ol­fac­to­ry (an­oth­er fan­cy word for, “the sense of smell”) and blow it­self is the an­glo-sax­on cog­nate to flare.


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