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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

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.

Trip­u­la­cion, Pulir and Pol­ish, In­ter­po­late

Trip­u­lación (Span­ish for “crew”, such as on a boat or plane) comes from the Latin pre­fix in­ter- (“be­tween”) and the Latin root polire (“to pol­ish” in Latin). A crew prob­a­bly spends much of their time pol­ish­ing the ship to per­fec­tion, right?

From the same Latin root polire, we get an­oth­er Span­ish word: pulir which means… “to pol­ish”. Sur­prise, sur­prise!

From this root, we al­so get the Eng­lish pol­ish as well, in ad­di­tion to the less ob­vi­ous: in­ter­po­late. How did that trans­for­ma­tion of mean­ing hap­pen? Re­mem­ber that in in­ter­po­lat­ing, you’re re­al­ly pol­ish­ing up the da­ta! You’re tak­ing da­ta from the dusty bins of for­got­ten files, dust­ing it off and reusing it: just like pol­ish­ing up a ship.

The p‑l root is clear in all vari­a­tions as well.

Com­prar and Com­pare

Both the com­mon Span­ish com­prar (“to buy”) and the sim­i­lar-sound­ing-but-dif­fer­ent-mean­ing com­pare in Eng­lish come from the same Latin root: com­para­re, mean­ing “to make equal with; bring to­geth­er for a con­test.”

How could one word evolve in­to two very sep­a­rate mean­ings? Well, the orig­i­nal Latin com­para­re comes from the root com (“with”) + parare (“pre­pare”); what do you do with a pair of things oth­er than pre­pare to make a choice be­tween them by com­par­ing them to find sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences — these ei­ther turn in­to a con­flict be­tween them, or be­come the same… or both?

So, the Eng­lish com­pare pre­serves the orig­i­nal sense, al­though with less ri­val­ry with­in the pair. But the Span­ish ba­si­cal­ly tells us that shop­ping is just an ex­er­cise in com­par­a­tive shop­pingcom­par­a­tive, lit­er­al­ly! Just com­par­ing ex­ist­ing prod­ucts and choos­ing the best.

And it’s note­wor­thy that the Span­ish com­prar im­plies much more prepa­ra­tion than the Eng­lish does. Those Span­ish are care­ful shop­pers!

So he who buys with­out com­par­ing it to the oth­er al­ter­na­tives re­al­ly is­n’t buy­ing (or at least, com­prar-ing), in the orig­i­nal sense.

Sier­ra and Ser­rat­ed

Sier­ra (Span­ish for “moun­tain range” — think of the Sier­ra moun­tains out west!) comes from the Latin ser­ra, mean­ing “saw” (no, not the verb; the tool you use to cut wood apart!).

From the same root we get the Eng­lish… ser­rat­ed. Think of the ser­rat­ed edges of cut pa­per! It does look a bit like a moun­tain, does­n’t it?

The s‑rr root is clear­ly vis­i­ble in both.

Pie and Pi­o­neer

Pi­o­neer is lit­er­al­ly, one who does some­thing… on foot. Thus it’s re­lat­ed — via the French paonier, from which we get the word — to the Span­ish for “foot”, pie. Thus the p‑i-vow­el open­ing both words!


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