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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » SH to J »

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.

Val­i­ja — Valise

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.

Jarabe — Syrup

Syrup jarabe english spanish

The Span­ish for syrup, jarabe, comes from the same root as the Eng­lish: the Persian/Arabic sharab, which means “a drink, or wine”.

The dras­ti­cal­ly dif­fer­ent (at least su­per­fi­cial­ly) words are ex­plained by the sh- and re­lat­ed (such as, sy- ) sounds chang­ing to the Ara­bic-sound­ing j- sound in Span­ish — but not Eng­lish.

Thus, the j‑r-b of jarabe maps to the sy-r‑p of syrup.

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Jerez — Sher­ry

Sherry jerez spanish englishThe Latin sounds for “sh” — and sim­i­lar vari­a­tions, like “ch” and “ss” — be­came a “j” sound in Span­ish.

Thus, the Eng­lish sher­ry is near iden­ti­cal to the Span­ish jerez!

These sh/j sounds were of­ten spelt with a “x” in old Span­ish; and sher­ry it­self is named af­ter the town it first came from, Xeres, which is near Cor­do­va.

Lejos and Leash

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:

  • Lease — think about it this way, the Eng­lish say “to let”, that is, to let peo­ple do some­thing with your prop­er­ty, to be re­laxed and dis­tant about it.
  • Lush — the lush man is some­one who is re­laxed about his dili­gence drink­ing.
  • Leash — a leash is pre­cise­ly what you use to try to not let any­thing get re­laxed!
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