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Hechizo and Fetish

The Span­ish hechizo (“spell”; noth­ing to do with the let­ters in words, but what a witch casts on you!) comes from the Latin fac­ti­cius (“made by art”; “ar­ti­fi­cial” — in­deed, that which is ar­ti­fi­cial is just some­thing not oc­cur­ring nat­u­ral­ly but in­stead made by art!).

But how did ar­ti­fi­cial change to mean “spell”? Think about it this way: cast­ing a spell goes against na­ture — it’s what the wicked, crazy and pro­found­ly un­nat­ur­al woman does! Think of the three weird sis­ters in Mac­beth, and how they un­nat­u­ral­ly stir up all the el­e­ments!

From hechizo (more specif­i­cal­ly, from it’s Por­tuguese twin cog­nate, feitiço), we get the Eng­lish fetish. How? Well, you have a fetish when the re­cip­i­ent casts a spell on you to be­come ob­sessed with the ob­ject of your fetish, right? Enough said!

That root fac­ti­cius turned in­to hechizo by chang­ing via two com­mon pat­terns: the ini­tial F in Latin tend­ed to turn in­to an H as Latin turned in­to Span­ish (com­pare fig and hi­go, or fume and hu­mo!) and the ‑ct- tend­ed to change to a ‑ch- (com­pare noche and noc­tur­al; or ocho and oc­ta­gon). Thus the h‑ch of hechizo maps to the f‑sh of fetish.

Gremio and Con­gre­gate

Gremio (Span­ish for “union,”, in the sense of work­ers, unite!; for­mer­ly “guild”–which is re­al­ly just an old-school union!) comes from the Latin Gremi­um, mean­ing “round.” How did this trans­for­ma­tion hap­pen? Well, a round pen was where you held on­to things; it turned in­to the word for where peo­ple got to­geth­er, which turned in­to guild (a com­mon rea­son peo­ple got to­geth­er!) and then, even­tu­al­ly, to mean union.

How­ev­er, it gets much more in­ter­est­ing. The Latin gremi­um comes from the pro­to-in­do-eu­ro­pean root *ger- mean­ing.… to get to­geth­er! From this root, we al­so get (via Greek) words like con­gre­gate (to bring peo­ple to­geth­er) and seg­re­gate (to bring peo­ple apart!).

Thus, gremio took an in­ter­est­ing turn over the last few thou­sand years: from the mean­ing con­gre­gate to round to con­gre­gate again!

We can see the g‑r root clear­ly in gremio as well as con­gre­gate and seg­re­gate.

Yer­no and Genus

Yer­no (Span­ish for “son-in-law”) at first sounds like noth­ing in Eng­lish.

But let’s look clos­er! The g- and y- sounds are of­ten mixed up be­tween lan­guages and even re­gions that speak the same lan­guage; in fact, the Old Eng­lish g- trans­formed it­self in­to a y- over time (com­pare the Ger­man gestern with the Eng­lish yes­ter­day, for ex­am­ple). And the n‑r sound not un­com­mon­ly swaps to be­come an r‑n sound, the two are eas­i­ly mixed up, es­pe­cial­ly in slurred speech.

Thus, the bizarre-sound­ing y‑r-n root of yer­no maps to the g‑n-r root of gener­ic (Maybe sons-in-laws are more gener­ic in Span­ish cul­tures than Eng­lish ones?) as well as genus (which lost the fi­nal r-) — yes, genus as in Latin and now sci­en­tif­ic clas­si­fi­ca­tion of your spot in the uni­verse! The son-in-law, I guess, is des­tined to be the son-in-law as his lot-in-life.

Go­ta and Gout, Gut­ter

Go­ta, Span­ish for “drop” comes from the Latin gut­ta for the same. From this  root we al­so get the Eng­lish gout and… gut­ter. What is gout, af­ter all, if not a pain that is a con­stant drip or a gut­ter, if not a col­lec­tion of dirty wa­ter drops? The g‑l sounds are con­sis­tent among all vari­a­tions.

Es­con­der and Ab­scond

Es­con­der (Span­ish for “to hide”) comes from the Latin ab- (“away”) and con­dere (“to put to­geth­er”). Hid­ing is, af­ter all, just a form of putting your­self away from every­one else!

From the same root we get the less com­mon Eng­lish ab­scond, “to se­cret­ly run away to avoid cap­ture.” That is just hiding–but tak­en to the ex­treme!

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