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Caro and Whore, Cher

To­day’s is a good one!

The Span­ish caro (sim­ply, “ex­pen­sive”) has a fun prove­nance: from the an­cient (pre-Latin) Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root karo- that meant… whore. Yes, the an­cient word karo turned in­to the al­most-as-an­cient Latin word carus mean­ing “ex­pen­sive,” from which we get the mod­ern Span­ish word caro, still mean­ing “ex­pen­sive.”

So the pros­ti­tutes of the an­cient world, ap­par­ent­ly, weren’t cheap!

In­ter­est­ing­ly, we can even see a lin­guis­tic con­nec­tion be­tween the words. The k- sound in Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean stayed the same sound as it evolved in­to Latin and then Span­ish (al­though usu­al­ly writ­ten with a c-); but as Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean evolved si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly in­to an­cient Ger­man and then in­to Eng­lish, that k- sound be­came the silent or al­most-silent h- or wh-. Think when and cuan­do, for ex­am­ple. So, we can see there­fore that the c‑r of caro maps to the wh‑r of whore.

The fun­ni­est part, how­ev­er, is that the an­cient Latin carus, for ex­pen­sive, as Latin evolved in­to French, turned in­to the French… cher, for “dear”: in the sense of, “My dear friend!”. The ex­act op­po­site of a whore! Thus, in French, pros­ti­tute be­came ex­pen­sive which be­came that which is dear to you!

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