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Jabón — Soap

Soap and the Span­ish for the same, jabón, sound like they have noth­ing in com­mon. But sounds can be de­ceiv­ing.

Both come from the same root: the Latin se­bum, mean­ing “grease”.

How can such dif­fer­ent words be so re­lat­ed? Easy: the Latin s- sound and its vari­a­tions (sh‑, ch- and sy- for ex­am­ple) usu­al­ly be­came, un­der the ara­bic in­flu­ence, a j- sound in Span­ish but re­mained more in­tact in Eng­lish.

Thus, the s‑p of soap maps al­most ex­act­ly to the j‑b of jabón. The “p” and “b” are of­ten eas­i­ly in­ter­changed as well.

Less fun is al­so not­ing that, from the same Latin root, mean­ing “grease” we al­so get se­b­or­rhea (a med­ical con­di­tion of hav­ing too much grease on your skin).

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