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.
In some of the Spanish words, they say maleta to mean “suitcase.” But in other parts, such as Argentina, they say valija.
Valija, although it sounds different from anything English, actually is quite similar to the almost-forgotten–my grandparents still use it!– English word, that also means “suitcase” , of valise.
Although they sound different, the connection becomes clear if we remember the pattern of the sh- to j- conversion: Latin words that had an sh- sound tended to turn into the j- sound in Spanish. Think of sherry/jerez.
In this case, the French valise entered English unchanged but when the French word was borrowed into Spanish, it was Spanish-ified with the s- sound turning into a j- sound. Thus, the v‑l-s maps to the v‑l-j.
Soap and the Spanish for the same, jabón, sound like they have nothing in common. But sounds can be deceiving.
Both come from the same root: the Latin sebum, meaning “grease”.
How can such different words be so related? Easy: the Latin s- sound and its variations (sh‑, ch- and sy- for example) usually became, under the arabic influence, a j- sound in Spanish but remained more intact in English.
Thus, the s‑p of soap maps almost exactly to the j‑b of jabón. The “p” and “b” are often easily interchanged as well.
Less fun is also noting that, from the same Latin root, meaning “grease” we also get seborrhea (a medical condition of having too much grease on your skin).
The Spanish eje for “axle” comes from the Latin for the same, axis. The English axle comes from the same common ancestor as the Latin axis, the proto-indo-european root *aks- also meaning the same.
The Spanish eje is easy to understand if we remember that most of the x/sh/ch sounds in Latin and the ancient languages became the throat-clearing ‑j- sound in Spanish. Thus, the e‑j of eje maps to the a‑x of axle pretty clearly.
It’s interesting how such a simple word has remained mostly unchanged for tens of thousands of years. Perhaps, the axle is one of the most fundamental discoveries in human history. It is, after all, what led to the wheel, which led to… civilization.
We recently discussed the relationship between dejar and relax, both from the same Latin root, laxare, from the Latin laxus. Other modern words come from these same roots, let’s see…
In Spanish, another interesting word from the same root is lejos, meaning, “far.” This underwent the same sh to j transition documented in the other post. That which is far away, after all, is what we can be relaxed about, what it’s easy to be loose about.
Some additional English words that come from this same root include: