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Cannabis — Hemp

To­day is time for what is per­haps my all-time fa­vorite ex­am­ple of how sound pat­terns change over time. Here we go, no more de­lays:

The Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean sound k- changed in­to the h- sound in­to Ger­man (then Eng­lish) — but it re­mained the k- sound (of­ten spelled with c-) in­to Latin then Span­ish. Thus we get many great par­al­lels we’ve dis­cussed be­fore, such as head/cabeza. An­oth­er ex­am­ple of the same pat­tern:

The Eng­lish hemp, for every­one’s fa­vorite weed to smoke. The Span­ish for the same, which we al­so say in Eng­lish, is cannabis.

Now look close­ly: if we re­mem­ber that the h- in the Germanic/English words maps to the c- in Latinate/Spanish words, then it be­comes very clear that the h‑m-p of hemp maps the c‑n-b of cannabis. The m/n and p/b cross and change very eas­i­ly be­tween each oth­er, so those sound changes are much more ob­vi­ous.

Who would’ve thunk!


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