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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » CT to CH »

Ducha — Duct, Douche

Ducha, Span­ish for “show­er”, sounds un­re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish for the same. But it does have a less ob­vi­ous cousin in Eng­lish: duct; both do con­duct wa­ter, to­wards a par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion!

And yes, from the same root we al­so get, via French, douche, as in, douchebag.

Duct and Ducha both come the same Latin root, duc­tus, “lead­ing”. More on that one an­oth­er day.

The trans­for­ma­tion hap­pened due to the al­ways-fun pat­tern of the ‑ct- words in Latin turn­ing in­to ‑ch- words in Span­ish. Thus, the d‑ct in Latin and Eng­lish maps al­most ex­act­ly to the d‑ch in Span­ish.

Leche — Lac­tose

Ah, one of our all-time fa­vorite pat­terns and ex­am­ples: leche, the com­mon Span­ish word mean­ing, “milk.”

Leche is a first cousin of the Eng­lish lac­tose via a very in­ter­est­ing pat­tern: the ‑ct- to ‑ch- pat­tern.

Both come from the same Latin root, lac­ta­tio (lit­er­al­ly, “suck­ling.”) The ‑ct- in that root re­mained un­changed as it en­tered Eng­lish (be­cause it en­tered via the so­phis­ti­cat­ed French) but that sound al­most al­ways turned in­to a ‑ch- sound as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish. Thus the l‑ct maps to the l‑ch al­most ex­act­ly.

Many oth­er awe­some words fol­low the same pat­tern: think octagon/ocho, for ex­am­ple. Some more com­ing up soon (or see the pat­tern page linked be­low).

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.

Noche — Noc­tur­nal

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The Span­ish for “night”, noche, is re­lat­ed (via the com­mon Latin an­ces­tor) noc­tur­nal.

Here’s the in­ter­est­ing part: the Latin sound “ct” con­sis­tent­ly changed to the “ch” sound in Span­ish. Think “lac­tose” and “leche”, or “oc­ta­gon” and “ocho”. And this is an­oth­er ex­am­ple of that pat­tern: the “ct” in “noc­tur­nal” is the same as the “ch” in “noche”!

Sospe­choso — Sus­pect

Sus­pect and the Span­ish equiv­a­lent, sospe­choso, are easy to iden­ti­fy and ob­vi­ous­ly the same word, both from the same Latin root, sus­pec­tus.

That’s not the in­ter­est­ing part. Rather, as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish, the Latin sound ‑ct- turned in­to the Span­ish ‑ch- sound. Think lac­tose/leche or oc­ta­gon/ocho.

And sus­pect falls ex­act­ly in­to this pat­tern: the Eng­lish s‑s-p-ct maps ex­act­ly to the Span­ish s‑s-p-ch.

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