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.

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!

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.

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.

Com­prar and Com­pare

Both the com­mon Span­ish com­prar (“to buy”) and the sim­i­lar-sound­ing-but-dif­fer­ent-mean­ing com­pare in Eng­lish come from the same Latin root: com­para­re, mean­ing “to make equal with; bring to­geth­er for a con­test.”

How could one word evolve in­to two very sep­a­rate mean­ings? Well, the orig­i­nal Latin com­para­re comes from the root com (“with”) + parare (“pre­pare”); what do you do with a pair of things oth­er than pre­pare to make a choice be­tween them by com­par­ing them to find sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences — these ei­ther turn in­to a con­flict be­tween them, or be­come the same… or both?

So, the Eng­lish com­pare pre­serves the orig­i­nal sense, al­though with less ri­val­ry with­in the pair. But the Span­ish ba­si­cal­ly tells us that shop­ping is just an ex­er­cise in com­par­a­tive shop­pingcom­par­a­tive, lit­er­al­ly! Just com­par­ing ex­ist­ing prod­ucts and choos­ing the best.

And it’s note­wor­thy that the Span­ish com­prar im­plies much more prepa­ra­tion than the Eng­lish does. Those Span­ish are care­ful shop­pers!

So he who buys with­out com­par­ing it to the oth­er al­ter­na­tives re­al­ly is­n’t buy­ing (or at least, com­prar-ing), in the orig­i­nal sense.


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