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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Za­p­a­to and Sab­o­tage

No one quite knows the ori­gin of za­p­a­to, Span­ish for “shoe.” But the same word — or words from the same root — are still used in Por­tuguese, French, Ital­ian, and even Ara­bic and, most shock­ing of all, Basque (shock­ing since Basque is un­re­lat­ed to any oth­er known lan­guage).

Most in­ter­est­ing, though, is that from the old French for shoe, sa­vate, which is from the same root as za­p­a­to as we can see with the z‑p to s‑v map­ping, do we get the Eng­lish, sab­o­tage.

In­deed, they say sab­o­tage comes from the word for “shoe” since French work­ers used to throw their (wood­en) shoes in­to ma­chin­ery in or­der to sab­o­tage their fac­to­ry.

Sies­ta and Six

The word Sies­ta — the fa­mous long breaks! — comes from the Latin sex­ta ho­ra (“sixth hour”), be­cause it was the 6th hour af­ter the 6am wake-up time when every­one would stop, take a break, and pray. We can see the s‑s/x root in both — both com­ing from the same Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean word for “six.”

In­ter­est­ing­ly, how­ev­er, an­oth­er Eng­lish word comes from the same foun­tain: noon, which was orig­i­nal­ly nona ho­ra, the 9th hour af­ter the 6am wake-up time — time for an­oth­er prayer! But — you must be won­der­ing — noon is on­ly 6 hours af­ter 6am, not 9am hours! Ex­cel­lent point, and the ex­pla­na­tion is: the ninth hour prayers were orig­i­nal­ly at 3pm (9 hours af­ter 6am), but over time, peo­ple start­ed tak­ing their breaks ear­li­er and ear­li­er and ear­li­er.… sur­prise, sur­prise.

Obra — Ma­neu­ver

Opera obra spanish englishThe com­mon Span­ish word obra, for “a work” (in the sense of, “a work of art”) or “some­thing done with ef­fort” sounds pret­ty ran­dom at first. But if you think about it…

Obra comes the Latin opus, mean­ing “work” (in the same sense). From opus, we get var­i­ous Eng­lish words in­clud­ing:

  • Opus (ob­vi­ous­ly) — used in mu­sic to mean the same.
  • Opera — it was orig­i­nal­ly just a work of mu­sic!
  • Ma­neu­ver — al­so re­lat­ed to the Span­ish mano, for hand: it is a work you cre­ate with your hands, lit­er­al­ly!
  • Op­er­a­tion — yes, an op­er­a­tion is some­thing you’ve cre­at­ed.

Es­puma and Foam

The Span­ish for “foam”, es­puma, comes from the Latin for the same: spuma. And this Latin comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *(s)poi-moi from which we al­so get the Eng­lish… foam.

How so? Be­cause the PIE root p- very con­sis­tent­ly be­came an f- as it evolved in­to Ger­man then Eng­lish, but this trans­for­ma­tion nev­er hap­pened when it be­came Latin and then Span­ish. Note words like foot/pie and fa­ther/padre.

Thus the f‑m of foam maps to the (s)-p‑m of es­puma very clear­ly!

Facil — Dif­fi­cult

The every­day Span­ish word facil, mean­ing “easy” is the ex­act op­po­site — lit­er­al­ly — of the Eng­lish, dif­fi­cult.

Both come from the latin facere, mean­ing, “to do” (hence the Span­ish hac­er and the Eng­lish fact, as well).

So, facil — easy — is lit­er­al­ly, do­ing! Do­ing is easy, we hope.

Dif­fi­cult is re­al­ly just de-facil : that is, not facil. Now that is easy, in­deed!

The con­nec­tion be­comes clear when we re­mem­ber the f‑c-l root in both words!


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