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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Guiller­mo — William

The “W” sound is a clas­sic Ger­man­ic and An­glo-sax­on sound. Harsh, it is.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, the Ger­man­ic and Eng­lish words with the w- be­come the gu- sound as these words evolved in­to Span­ish. Yes, in this case, the Ger­man­ic and Eng­lish words — cen­turies ago — made its way back in­to Span­ish rather than the more com­mon pat­tern of vice-ver­sa!

One ex­am­ple: the name William maps to the Span­ish name… Guiller­mo. I first dis­cov­ered this be­cause I was once in a book­store in Buenos Aires and there was a book “En­rique IV” by “Guiller­mo Shake­speare”. I need­ed about a minute to fig­ure out what was hap­pen­ing (En­rique is Span­ish for Hen­ry).

Mez­cla and Promis­cu­ous

Mez­cla (Span­ish for “mix”) comes from the Latin mis­cere, mean­ing, “to mix.” You can en­vi­sion the sound change when you re­mem­ber that the ‑sc- sound sounds and even looks like the let­ter ‑zc-!

From the same Latin root mis­cere we get the Eng­lish, promis­cu­ous — just mis­cere with the em­pha­sis pre­fix pro-, so it lit­er­al­ly means “to mix in­dis­crim­i­nate­ly.” What does a promis­cu­ous girl (or, um­mm, guy) do if not mix with any­one with­out dis­crim­i­nat­ing be­tween them that much?

The m‑z-c of mez­cla clear­ly maps to the m‑s-c of promis­cu­ous.

Coche — Coach

The Span­ish for “car”, coche, on the sur­face sounds noth­ing like the Eng­lish for the same — or any sim­i­lar word.

But et­y­mo­log­i­cal­ly, it comes from the same root as the Eng­lish, coach. Think of it in the old-fash­ioned sense of: the coach class on a train!

All come from the same root: the Hun­gar­i­an koc­si (Hun­gar­i­an is un­re­lat­ed to Eng­lish or Span­ish, so there is no deep­er root), named af­ter the vil­lage where the first coach, in the very old sense — a large car­riage — was cre­at­ed.

It’s in­ter­est­ing how coach has been down­grad­ed as a word in Eng­lish: it was first the lux­u­ri­ous way to trav­el, and now it is the econ­o­my class of a train.

Través and Con­vert

Través — in the clas­sic phrase, a través de (“go­ing through”) — comes from the Latin trans­ver­sus, which is just the pre­fix trans- (“through”) with vert­ere (“to turn”).

Here is where it gets in­ter­est­ing. From the same root vert­ere, we get all of the vert- Eng­lish words, such as: con­vert, in­vert, di­vert, ver­te­brae. All do in­volve turn­ing, in one form or an­oth­er.

This one does­n’t have a map­ping that is easy, since on­ly the v- sur­vives, since the trans- lost the ‑ns- and the r‑t-r of vert­ere dis­ap­peared, leav­ing us with just… v. But we should re­mem­ber that the v‑, and much more of­ten the v‑r or v‑r-t is just that some­thing is turn­ing, con­vert­ing in­to some­thing else.

Sol­er and In­so­lent

In­so­lent de­rives from the Latin pre­fix in- (mean­ing, “the op­po­site of,” of course) and the Latin root sol­ere, mean­ing, “to be used to (do­ing some­thing).” So, an in­so­lent man is lit­er­al­ly some­one who is used to not do­ing the things he is ex­pect­ed to do. That sounds pret­ty in­so­lent to me!

From the same Latin root, we get the Span­ish sol­er mean­ing “to be used to (do­ing some­thing)” just like the orig­i­nal Latin root, be­fore the nega­tion. So next time you hear in Span­ish, Sue­lo… (“I’m used to…”) you should think, “Don’t be in­so­lent!”. No one will get the pun oth­er than you, me, and our fel­low ForNerds fans.

Note that this has no re­la­tion to the Span­ish sue­lo mean­ing, “ground”, which comes from the Latin solum.

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