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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

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.

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).

Cor­rer — Horse

The Span­ish cor­rer, “to run” seems com­plete­ly un­re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish horse. Looks can be de­ceiv­ing.

Cor­rer comes from the Latin for the same, cur­rere. Cur­rere, in turn, comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *kurs, which al­so means, “to run” — just like horse does! Both have the same com­mon an­ces­tor.

The weird thing is: how did the PIE *kurs turn in­to horse, they sound so dif­fer­ent.

The ex­pla­na­tion is that, in the Ger­man­ic lan­guages like Eng­lish, the k- sound turned in­to the h- sound. But in Span­ish, the orig­i­nal k- sound re­mained, al­though usu­al­ly writ­ten with a c-.

This ex­plains many par­al­lel words that have c- and h- sounds that map to each oth­er be­tween Span­ish and Eng­lish, like heart/cora­zon and head/cabeza.

Pere­jil and Pars­ley

Pere­jil and its Eng­lish ver­sion pars­ley sound very dif­fer­ent. But they are, ac­tu­al­ly, et­y­mo­log­i­cal­ly the same word.

They sound dif­fer­ent be­cause of­ten the ‑s- and ‑sh- sounds in Span­ish turned in­to the let­ter ‑j- with the Ara­bic throat clear­ing sound as a pro­nun­ci­a­tion. Thus, the p‑r-j‑l of pere­jil maps ex­act­ly to the p‑r-s‑l of pars­ley.

Puñal and Pu­gna­cious

The Eng­lish for ea­ger-to-fight, pu­gna­cious, con­tains the ‑gn- pat­tern in­side it: a give-away to the pat­tern that ‑gn- words in Latin turned the ‑gn- in­to a ‑ñ- in Span­ish yet re­mained the same in­to Eng­lish.

There­fore, pu­gna­cious maps per­fect­ly to puñal, the Span­ish for… “dag­ger.” It makes sense that “dag­ger” and “ea­ger to fight” come from the same root, af­ter all. And that root, in this case, is the Latin pugnare, mean­ing, “to fight.”

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