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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

Es­trel­la Fugaz and Fugi­tive

A “shoot­ing star” in Span­ish is an es­trel­la fugaz. Since es­trel­la means “star”, then fugaz is the par­al­lel to “shoot­ing.”

Fugaz comes from the Latin fugere which means, “to run away; flee” — from which we get the Eng­lish fugi­tive.

The map­ping is ob­vi­ous with the f‑g re­tained in both ver­sions.

Thus, in Span­ish, a shoot­ing star is lit­er­al­ly, a flee­ing star. But flee­ing from what?

Fon­do, Hon­do and Pro­found

From the Latin fun­dus (“bot­tom”), we get the Span­ish fon­do (“back­ground”) and hon­do (“deep”) — as well as the Eng­lish pro­found. Af­ter all, when some­one says some­thing pro­found, well, that’s deep.

The map­ping of the Span­ish f‑n-d (or h‑n-d) to the Eng­lish (pro)-f-n‑d is straight­for­ward. How­ev­er, it’s cu­ri­ous that, in hon­do, the ini­tial F trans­formed from Latin in­to Span­ish to an ini­tial H. This is a com­mon pat­tern, unique to Span­ish, that we see in many Latin words as they trans­formed in­to Span­ish, such as hi­jo and fil­ial, refuse and re­husar, and hi­ga­do and fig.

Ju­go and Suck

One of our fa­vorite pat­terns of sound change be­tween Eng­lish and Span­ish is the sh/j shift: un­der the in­flu­ence of ara­bic, many words that had a “s” or “sh” or “sy” or “ch” sound in Latin, start­ed to be pro­nounced with the throat-clear­ing sound and writ­ten with a “j”. See sherry/jerez and chess/ajedrez or syrup/jarabe, for ex­am­ple.

An­oth­er ex­am­ple of this pat­tern is the Span­ish word for “juice”, ju­go. It comes from the Latin suc­cus mean­ing, “juice” (par­tic­u­lar­ly sap, or juice from plants).

From this Latin root suc­cus we al­so get the Eng­lish… suck.

Yes, if it sucks — it is juicy! Lit­er­al­ly!

We can see the map­ping in the s‑c to j‑g map­ping. The “c” and “g” sounds are sim­i­lar and of­ten in­ter­changed.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, in Spain they do not say ju­go to mean “juice”; in­stead, they say… su­co. Su­co, fun­ni­ly enough, al­so comes from the same root of suc­cus. It is just the vari­a­tion that nev­er un­der­went the ara­bic “j” trans­for­ma­tion.

From the same root we al­so get the Eng­lish suc­cu­lent, al­though we do not get the su­per­fi­cial­ly sim­i­lar Eng­lish juice, which comes from the Latin ius, mean­ing, “sauce.”

Caro and Whore, Cher

To­day’s is a good one!

The Span­ish caro (sim­ply, “ex­pen­sive”) has a fun prove­nance: from the an­cient (pre-Latin) Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root karo- that meant… whore. Yes, the an­cient word karo turned in­to the al­most-as-an­cient Latin word carus mean­ing “ex­pen­sive,” from which we get the mod­ern Span­ish word caro, still mean­ing “ex­pen­sive.”

So the pros­ti­tutes of the an­cient world, ap­par­ent­ly, weren’t cheap!

In­ter­est­ing­ly, we can even see a lin­guis­tic con­nec­tion be­tween the words. The k- sound in Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean stayed the same sound as it evolved in­to Latin and then Span­ish (al­though usu­al­ly writ­ten with a c-); but as Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean evolved si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly in­to an­cient Ger­man and then in­to Eng­lish, that k- sound be­came the silent or al­most-silent h- or wh-. Think when and cuan­do, for ex­am­ple. So, we can see there­fore that the c‑r of caro maps to the wh‑r of whore.

The fun­ni­est part, how­ev­er, is that the an­cient Latin carus, for ex­pen­sive, as Latin evolved in­to French, turned in­to the French… cher, for “dear”: in the sense of, “My dear friend!”. The ex­act op­po­site of a whore! Thus, in French, pros­ti­tute be­came ex­pen­sive which be­came that which is dear to you!

Hablar and In­ef­fa­ble

The Span­ish hablar (“to talk”) comes from the Latin fab­u­lare, as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed. The ini­tial F- turned in­to an H‑, as hap­pens on­ly in Span­ish (think fig vs hi­go.)

From the same root, how­ev­er, al­so comes the Eng­lish in­ef­fa­ble, that SAT word mean­ing “un­able to be de­scribed in words.” So, in­ef­fa­ble lit­er­al­ly means “with­out” (in-) and “speak­ing” (fab­u­lare).

We see the h‑b-l of hablar map to the (in-)f‑b-l of in­ef­fa­ble quite clear­ly!


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