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Trip­u­la­cion, Pulir and Pol­ish, In­ter­po­late

Trip­u­lación (Span­ish for “crew”, such as on a boat or plane) comes from the Latin pre­fix in­ter- (“be­tween”) and the Latin root polire (“to pol­ish” in Latin). A crew prob­a­bly spends much of their time pol­ish­ing the ship to per­fec­tion, right?

From the same Latin root polire, we get an­oth­er Span­ish word: pulir which means… “to pol­ish”. Sur­prise, sur­prise!

From this root, we al­so get the Eng­lish pol­ish as well, in ad­di­tion to the less ob­vi­ous: in­ter­po­late. How did that trans­for­ma­tion of mean­ing hap­pen? Re­mem­ber that in in­ter­po­lat­ing, you’re re­al­ly pol­ish­ing up the da­ta! You’re tak­ing da­ta from the dusty bins of for­got­ten files, dust­ing it off and reusing it: just like pol­ish­ing up a ship.

The p‑l root is clear in all vari­a­tions as well.

Com­prar and Com­pare

Both the com­mon Span­ish com­prar (“to buy”) and the sim­i­lar-sound­ing-but-dif­fer­ent-mean­ing com­pare in Eng­lish come from the same Latin root: com­para­re, mean­ing “to make equal with; bring to­geth­er for a con­test.”

How could one word evolve in­to two very sep­a­rate mean­ings? Well, the orig­i­nal Latin com­para­re comes from the root com (“with”) + parare (“pre­pare”); what do you do with a pair of things oth­er than pre­pare to make a choice be­tween them by com­par­ing them to find sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences — these ei­ther turn in­to a con­flict be­tween them, or be­come the same… or both?

So, the Eng­lish com­pare pre­serves the orig­i­nal sense, al­though with less ri­val­ry with­in the pair. But the Span­ish ba­si­cal­ly tells us that shop­ping is just an ex­er­cise in com­par­a­tive shop­pingcom­par­a­tive, lit­er­al­ly! Just com­par­ing ex­ist­ing prod­ucts and choos­ing the best.

And it’s note­wor­thy that the Span­ish com­prar im­plies much more prepa­ra­tion than the Eng­lish does. Those Span­ish are care­ful shop­pers!

So he who buys with­out com­par­ing it to the oth­er al­ter­na­tives re­al­ly is­n’t buy­ing (or at least, com­prar-ing), in the orig­i­nal sense.

Sier­ra and Ser­rat­ed

Sier­ra (Span­ish for “moun­tain range” — think of the Sier­ra moun­tains out west!) comes from the Latin ser­ra, mean­ing “saw” (no, not the verb; the tool you use to cut wood apart!).

From the same root we get the Eng­lish… ser­rat­ed. Think of the ser­rat­ed edges of cut pa­per! It does look a bit like a moun­tain, does­n’t it?

The s‑rr root is clear­ly vis­i­ble in both.

Pie and Pi­o­neer

Pi­o­neer is lit­er­al­ly, one who does some­thing… on foot. Thus it’s re­lat­ed — via the French paonier, from which we get the word — to the Span­ish for “foot”, pie. Thus the p‑i-vow­el open­ing both words!

Hue­vo and Ovu­late

Hue­vo (Span­ish for “egg”) comes from the Latin ovum for the same. From that Latin root, we get the Eng­lish… ovaries. The ue‑v of hue­vo clear­ly maps to the o‑v of ovary! The eggs are both lit­er­al and metaphor­i­cal!

From the same root we al­so get ovu­late and even… oval An egg is oval, is­n’t it?

Gama and Gamut

Gama (Span­ish for “range”) comes from the Greek gam­ma, the third let­ter of the al­pha­bet: al­pha be­ta gam­ma. But it came to mean “range” in an in­ter­est­ing way: mu­sic. The tra­di­tion­al mu­si­cal note gam­ma — which to­day is just ‘g’ — was used, in clas­sic mu­si­cal no­ta­tion, and still to­day — to re­fer to the note that is both just be­low the pri­ma­ry start­ing let­ter ‘a’ (hence, on a pi­ano, the ‘g’ key is im­me­di­ate­ly to the left of the ‘a’ key), as well as the high­est note that ends the oc­tave on the oth­er side. Thus, the gam­ma refers to the whole range of notes!

From the same root, and with the same mu­si­cal his­to­ry, we al­so get the Eng­lish SAT-syn­onym for “range”… gamut.

The g‑m root is clear­ly vis­i­ble in both.

Hipote­ca and Theme

The Span­ish hipote­ca for “mort­gage” comes from the Greek hy­po- (“down”) and tithenai (“to put, place”). Why? A mort­gage is when you put down a de­posit, and you put down your com­mit­ment to pay it off un­til it’s all paid down.

From the root tithenai we al­so get the Eng­lish… theme. A theme is when you put down one top­ic you will con­sis­tent­ly re­turn to dur­ing the course of the event!

This et­y­mol­o­gy is al­most as good as the Eng­lish equiv­a­lent, mort­gage… which lit­er­al­ly means, pledge un­til you’re dead. Yup, the same mort- as in death! A mort­gage is — lit­er­al­ly — what you’ll be pay­ing un­til you die!

Cor­rer — Horse

The Span­ish cor­rer, “to run” seems com­plete­ly un­re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish horse. Looks can be de­ceiv­ing.

Cor­rer comes from the Latin for the same, cur­rere. Cur­rere, in turn, comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *kurs, which al­so means, “to run” — just like horse does! Both have the same com­mon an­ces­tor.

The weird thing is: how did the PIE *kurs turn in­to horse, they sound so dif­fer­ent.

The ex­pla­na­tion is that, in the Ger­man­ic lan­guages like Eng­lish, the k- sound turned in­to the h- sound. But in Span­ish, the orig­i­nal k- sound re­mained, al­though usu­al­ly writ­ten with a c-.

This ex­plains many par­al­lel words that have c- and h- sounds that map to each oth­er be­tween Span­ish and Eng­lish, like heart/cora­zon and head/cabeza.

Men­ti­ra and Amend­ment

Span­ish for “lie” (Men­ti­ra) comes from the Latin man­daci­um for the same, which in turn, comes from the ear­li­er Latin men­da for “de­fect; fault”. But the Latin Men­da comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *mend- mean­ing the same, fault or de­fect.

Thus we see an in­ter­est­ing tran­si­tion over time: de­fect turned in­to lie. The word took on more and more agency: the prob­lem did­n’t just hap­pen; it was an ex­plic­it lie!

The same PIE root *mend‑, in Eng­lish, took a dif­fer­ent route: via French, it turned in­to the mod­ern Eng­lish amend and amend­ment. Thus, in Eng­lish, “de­fect” turned in­to the more ac­ci­den­tal, less bad, “lets make a change!”.

We can see the par­al­lels eas­i­ly: the m‑n-t of men­ti­ra map to the (a)-m-n‑d of amend. The d- and t- trans­for­ma­tion is very com­mon and the sounds of­ten in­ter­change­able.

We al­so have the Eng­lish men­da­cious that is a di­rect par­al­lel to men­ti­ra… but every­one seems to have for­got­ten that word.

Cima and Ma­roon

Ma­roon (in the sense of “be­ing strand­ed”) comes from an old Span­ish word cimár­ron (via French) which used to mean “wild”. Al­though this orig­i­nal Span­ish word is no longer in use, it comes from cima mean­ing “sum­mit (such as of a moun­tain)” — which is still a com­mon word. Wild an­i­mals, af­ter all, stayed at the tops of the moun­tains since hu­mans en­croached from the bot­tom.

The ‑m- (fin­ish­ing up cima and start­ing ma­roon) is the on­ly sur­viv­ing com­mon­al­i­ty be­tween both words to­day.


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