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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Man­cha and Im­mac­u­late

The Span­ish man­cha (“spot” or “stain”) comes from the Latin for the same, mac­u­la.

From the Latin mac­u­la, we get the Eng­lish… im­mac­u­late — which lit­er­al­ly means (know­ing the nega­tion pre­fix of im-) “with­out a stain.” So the im­mac­u­late con­cep­tion tru­ly was per­fect!

How this sound changed was in­ter­est­ing: of­ten Latin words with a ct- or cl- or oth­er hard let­ters af­ter a c- sound turn in­to a suave ch in Span­ish. For a dis­tant ex­am­ple, see duct and ducha, or noc­tur­nal and noche. (The ct- is much more com­mon than the cl‑, but they’re cousins!) Thus, we can see the m‑ch of man­cha map­ping to the (im-)m‑cl of im­mac­u­late.

Pe­gar and Pi­tu­itary and Fat

The Span­ish pe­gar (“to paste”) comes from the Latin pix, mean­ing “tar.” That makes sense: “paste” looks like just a more dilu­at­ed “tar.”

But pix it­self comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root pei(e), which meant, fat — think of an­i­mal fat, for ex­am­ple. It makes sense that this word evolved in­to a word mean­ing “tar”: that’s a bit what an­i­mal fat looks like.

From this same root pei(e), we get a few no­table Eng­lish words:

  • Fat — Fat it­self comes from this root! This is through the PIE p- sound trans­form­ing in­to the f- sound as it evolved in­to Ger­man and Eng­lish. Think about father/padre, for ex­am­ple.
  • Pi­tu­itary — The same root came back in, via an ed­u­cat­ed Latin, to mean, the pi­tu­itary gland. Why? Be­cause the an­cients be­lieved that this slimy gland is what pro­duced mucous/snot — the smile of the nose. A bit like tar, is­n’t it? We can see the P- root pre­served here, too.

Apos­tar — Po­si­tion, Posit

Apos­tar, Span­ish for “to bet”, sounds noth­ing like bet or any re­lat­ed Eng­lish word.

But it turns out to be a close cousin of Posit and Po­si­tion: Bet­ting is in­deed just an ex­treme form of putting forth a po­si­tion or posit­ing some­thing — lit­er­al­ly putting your mon­ey where your mouth is.

All come from the same Latin, po­si­tionem, which come from the Latin root verb ponere (“to put”)  from which we al­so get the Span­ish for the same, pon­er.

Reírse and Ridicu­lous

Both the Span­ish reírse (“to laugh”) and the Eng­lish ridicu­lous come from the same Latin root: rid­ere (al­so “to laugh”).

Thus, the r‑vow­el-d-vow­el of ridicu­lous maps to the r‑vow­el-dis­ap­peared-vow­el of reírse. Note that the mid­dle ‑d- dis­ap­peared in the Span­ish ver­sion, prob­a­bly as the word was short­ened since the Spaniards spent so much time laugh­ing, it be­came nat­ur­al to say it short­er and quick­er!

Trapo — Drape

Trapo is the com­mon Span­ish word for “cloth” or, more com­mon­ly, “rag”.

It sounds noth­ing like the sim­i­lar words in Eng­lish, ex­cept… it turns out to be a close cousin of drape & drap­ery.

All come from the same old Irish word, drapih, mean­ing, “gar­ment.”

We can see the par­al­lel in the t‑r-p and d‑r-p map­ping. Both are the same roots ex­cept for the t/d shift, which is a very com­mon and not-note­wor­thy tran­si­tion.

A drape, af­ter all, is a form of a cloth.


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