Agu­ja, Agu­jero and Acu­ity, Acrid

Agu­ja (Span­ish for “nee­dle”) and the sim­i­lar Agu­jero (“hole”) both come from the Latin acus, al­so “nee­dle.”

From the same Latin root, via Latin, we get the Eng­lish acu­ity. Be­ing sharp with your wit and ob­ser­va­tions is just an­oth­er form of be­ing sharp!

An­oth­er de­scen­dent (just slight­ly more dis­tant!) is acrid — be­cause that which is bit­ter is re­al­ly sharp on the tongue.

The a‑c root in Eng­lish maps to the a‑g root in Span­ish. The c- and g- trans­for­ma­tion is a very com­mon one too; both sounds are very sim­i­lar!

Buitre and Vul­ture

The Span­ish buitre does­n’t ob­vi­ous­ly look like the Eng­lish word it means: “vul­ture,” both of which are from the Latin vul­turis.

But look­ing be­low the sur­face, we see the sim­i­lar­i­ty: the b‑t-r of buitre maps to the v-(l)-t‑r of “vul­ture.”

This is­n’t ob­vi­ous at first for two rea­sons. First, the b- to v- tran­si­tion: the sounds are iden­ti­cal in Span­ish and of­ten in­ter­changed with each oth­er, so it makes sense that they swap here.

But more sub­tly, the ‑l- be­tween the vow­els dis­ap­peared in the Span­ish ver­sion, with the ulu be­com­ing u‑i. The van­ish­ing of the ‑l- be­tween the vow­els is much more char­ac­ter­is­tic of Por­tuguese than Span­ish (see al­most every ex­am­ple in Por­tuguese, like com­par­ing the Span­ish vue­lo with the Por­tuguese voo — an ob­ser­va­tion I first made in the Rio de Janeiro air­port years ago!).

Quizás and Savvy

Con­tin­u­ing the re­cent saber and sage con­ver­sa­tion

Quizás (Span­ish for “per­haps”) comes from the Latin qui sapi — lit­er­al­ly, “Who knows?”. The sapi in that phrase is from the Latin for “to know”, sapere, from which root we get the Eng­lish… savvy. Some­one who is savvy just knows a lot about the sub­ject!

The fi­nal ‑s of quizás maps to the first s- of savvy. And the ‑p- in sapere, al­though van­ished from quizás, maps to the ‑vv- in savvy.

Prestar and Presto

Prestar (Span­ish for “to lend”) has its Eng­lish equiv­a­lent in… presto!

It does make sense: Presto! Mon­ey just ap­pears out of nowhere!

There is a deep­er con­nec­tion. Both come from the Latin praesto, mean­ing, “ready”, which al­so came to mean, “pro­vide”. Pro­vide, over the years, turned in­to “lend” as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish: the lender is the provider, af­ter all. Thus, “ready” turned in­to “pro­vide” which turned in­to “lend”!

From the same Latin root, we al­so get the Eng­lish press–but not in the com­mon sense of press­ing a but­ton. But in the al­most for­got­ten, more es­o­teric sense of forc­ing in­to mil­i­tary ser­vice. I re­mem­ber learn­ing in an 18th cen­tu­ry British his­to­ry class that the British crown used the im­press men in­to mil­i­tary service–no, they weren’t try­ing to im­press them (make your­self sound great) but in­stead to im­press them (draft them!). This press and im­press, in these par­tic­u­lar sens­es, al­so come from praesto.

Flecha and Fletch­er

To­day’s pat­tern is so easy that you won’t rec­og­nize it un­til we tell you!

The clas­sic Eng­lish last name Fletch­er was giv­en to those who made ar­rows. This is un­sur­pris­ing if we re­mem­ber the Span­ish word for ar­row is… flecha. The f‑l-ch root is ob­vi­ous in both of them!

Now is when we all go in uni­son: ah­h­h­hh!


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