Learning Spanish & Etymology Pattern-Matching for Nerds

Desarrollar and Roll, Control

Desarrollar (Spanish for “to develop”) comes from the Latin roots des– (“reversal”) and rotulus (“a roll of paper”).

This implies a few interesting questions. First, how do we get from a “roll of paper” to “developing”? The story is fun: the Latin rotulus (“roll of paper”) evolved into the Spanish arrollar, meaning “to crush, destroy”. Perhaps because you need to destroy a tree to create a scroll? Perhaps paper destroys the sacred oral tradition? Perhaps the words on paper have the power to destroy? Perhaps destruction is caused by modernity, by the wheel itself (since rotulus was often used to mean “wheel”)?

The conservativeness of the word, however, doubles down. Over time, however, it became more common to use arrollar with the negative (des-) prefix. So, development in Spanish is really just not destroying. The language reveals a far more fundamentally conservative bias than politics ever could.

From the Latin rotulus, we also get the English roll (in the sense of, a roll of toiletpaper) as well as control — which itself comes from contra (“against”) and rotulus. So, control is just what you do in order to fight against the wheel? The more prosaic explanation, however, comes from the rolls being used to record business balances in medieval times, and the control was to double verify each datum. Not as metaphorical but words have layers of meaning, buried deeply under each other, we must not forget.

what is the etymological way to learn spanish?

Nerds love to pattern-match, to find commonalities among everything. Our approach to learning languages revolves (the same -volve- that is in “volver”, to “return”) around connecting the Spanish words to the related English words via their common etymologies – to find the linguistic patterns, because these patterns become easy triggers to remember what words mean. Want to know more? Email us and ask:

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For Nerds Learning Spanish via Etymologies