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Pu­drir and Foul

The Span­ish pu­drir, “to rot,” has a sur­pris­ing con­nec­tion to the Eng­lish, foul, a word mean­ing the same but sad­ly very un­der­used these days — al­though still when quot­ing Mac­beth: fair is foul and foul is fair!

Both come from the same In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *pu, mean­ing, “to rot.”

But the Eng­lish one sounds so dif­fer­ent be­cause, in the Ger­man­ic branch of In­do-Eu­ro­pean, the p- sound turned in­to the f- sound. But now in the Latin branch.

Thus the ini­tial f+vowel of foul maps to the ini­tial f+vowel of pu­drir.

From the same root are more fun words in­clud­ing de­file, pu­trid, and pus. What won­der­ful im­agery!


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