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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Hincha – Inflation

The Spanish hinchar means “to inflate, puff up” and from it we get the much more common Spanish hincha meaning: “a fan”. A fan, therefore, is literally someone who puffs himself all up over his team!

Interestingly, hinchar is directly related to inflate, in a subtle way: both come from the Latin inflare meaning the same as hinchar.

How did this word evolve into somethings so different? It’s not so different as it sounds if we remember that the Spanish h- is silent: so the in-ch-a maps closely to the in-fl-a. The ch/fl mapping isn’t common at all, but if we sound it out, we can hear that they sound similar.

Next time you get all excited about your favorite team, remember that it is this excitement of making more and more is exactly what causes… inflation.

Zapato and Sabotage

No one quite knows the origin of zapato, Spanish for “shoe.” But the same word — or words from the same root — are still used in Portuguese, French, Italian, and even Arabic and, most shocking of all, Basque (shocking since Basque is unrelated to any other known language).

Most interesting, though, is that from the old French for shoe, savate, which is from the same root as zapato as we can see with the z-p to s-v mapping, do we get the English, sabotage.

Indeed, they say sabotage comes from the word for “shoe” since French workers used to throw their (wooden) shoes into machinery in order to sabotage their factory.

Cola and Coward

ColaSpanish for “tail” and, more informally, “ass” — comes from the Latin for the same: coda.

Coda itself has come into English in two ways. First, coda is a music term meaning… the end! The tail is the end of the animal!

More interestingly, from coda we also get the English, coward. The Latin coda became coe– in French, dropping the -d-; and an -ard is just a person, put negatively (bastard!). Thus, a coward is literally: someone who turns his tail, and runs!

Apretar and Pectoral

Apretar (Spanish for “to squeeze”) comes from the Latin pectus, meaning, “chest.” Think of having a heart attack: your chest feels squeezed. It’s not a coincidence that doctors in the USA today still call a heart attack, angina pectoris — that is, “angina of the chest” since pectoral in English today still means “relating to the chest”! The p-t maps to the p-ct, with the -ct- just simplifying into its first -c- sound.

Related: see also Pecho/Pectoral. From the same pectus root, we see other interesting words, following the ch/ct pattern.

Huésped and Hospitable

Huésped, the common Spanish word for “guest,” has an English cousin: hospitable. This might not be obvious at first since the -o- morphs to the -ue- and thus changes the sound completely but both come from the Latin hospes which means the same. We can see the mapping of h-s-p clearly in both.

In the same family is hospital. Yes, patients in a hospital are just guests, as though it’s a hotel!

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