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

Em­pu­jar and Push

The Span­ish em­pu­jar (“to push”) has the same com­mon an­ces­tor as the Eng­lish for the same, push: the Latin pul­sare.

Pul­sare meant, in Latin, “to beat”. A push is a sort of beat, in both sens­es: a punch and, a punch hap­pen­ing over and over again!

From the same root we al­so get the Eng­lish, to pulse, of course. As does… im­pulse. Yes, an im­pulse is in­deed a strong punch!

The sound here is a vari­a­tion of the sh-to‑j pat­tern, where vari­a­tions of the s/x/sh/soft‑g sound in Latin turned in­to the “j” in Span­ish (via the Ara­bic in­flu­ence) but re­mained the same as it trans­formed from Latin in­to ed­u­cat­ed Eng­lish. Hence the “sh” sound in “push”!

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.”

Eno­jar and An­noy

Eno­jar, Span­ish for “to get an­gry”, has a fun cousin in the Eng­lish, an­noy.

Both of these (along with the French for “world­ly bore­dom”, en­nui) come from the Latin in­odi­are, mean­ing, “to hate”. The Latin in- adds em­pha­sis to the odi­um, Latin for “hate”.

We can see the par­al­lels in all with the open vow­el, fol­lowed by the ‑n-, fol­lowed by a ‑y- sound, al­though in Span­ish the ‑y- sounds (and its cor­re­spond­ing ‑x- and ‑sh- vari­a­tions) of­ten turned in­to the ‑j- sounds, as it did here. Thus, the a‑n-y maps to the e‑n-j.

Ha­tred, then, dis­si­pates and weak­ens over time. In Eng­lish, ha­tred weak­ens in­to mere an­noy­ance. In Span­ish, ha­tred weak­ens in­to just anger, eno­jo. And, best of all, ha­tred in French weak­ens in­to a world-weary bore­dom of en­nui.

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.

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