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Cárcel and Incarceration, Cancel

Cárcel (Spanish for “prison, jail”) comes form the Latin for the same, carcer. Note that the words are almost identical except for the l/r swap — a very common switch linguistically (think of the Japanese, who pronounce both interchangeably, “Frushing meadows! Frushing meadows!” as they joke in New York).

From that same Latin root carcer, we get two English words.

More directly, Incarceration. That makes sense — incarcerating is going to jail! We can see the c-r-c root in both.

More subtly, we also get the English cancel. The English made the same l/r shift as the Spanish — but, as it came via French, the first -r- became an -n-. But that’s a French pattern for another day!

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