Friday, March 16, 2018

Spanish loanwords from English, Part 3: club

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Part I of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

club (pl. clubs or clubes)

As we saw earlier in this chapter, this word was borrowed from English club in the late 19th century and it is fully assimilated into the language, despite it being very unusual for a Spanish word (or syllable for that matter) to end with the final consonant /b/ (cf. Chapter 7, §7.12.3). Because of the time of adoption, it undoubtedly came from British English, not American English. It was originally used to refer only to political organizations, typically clandestine ones. Today, Sp. club means primarily ‘a group of people organized for a common purpose, especially a group that meets regularly’ as well as ‘the building, room, or other facility used for the meetings of an organized group’ (AHD).

The main meaning of Eng. club is also ‘an association dedicated to a particular interest or activity’ (COED). This word is a loanword from Old Norse klubba ‘cudgel’ (‘club with rounded head used as a weapon’), which was the original meaning of the word in English. That sense is still used in playing cards and is equivalent to Sp. basto, an archaic word related to bastón ‘walking cane’.

The origin of the sense ‘association of people’ for the English word club is not very well understood, though it is thought to have derived from the verbal use of the word club, namely to club ‘to beat with a club’ and a later derived sense for this verb, ‘to gather or form into a club-like mass; specially to dress the hair into a club’ (OED), as in to club together, an expression that is much more common in the UK than in North America.

The word club has become quite common in Spanish. However, because no native Spanish words end in the consonant b, the word is typically pronounced clu ([ˈklu]). To the extent that the word is felt to be foreign, the plural is made as clubs. However, since the word is so common, one also finds the plural clubes, with the plural ending ‑es that is common to all native words that end in a consonant. Both plurals are accepted by the Academy.

Perhaps the most common or primary sense for Eng. club among young people today is not the one given above but rather the sense ‘nightclub with dance music’ (COED). This sense of Eng. club does not typically translate into most varieties of Spanish as club, however. This sense that for most Spanish speakers translates as discoteca or even sala de baile. Although ‘nightclub’ is the main sense for some English speakers, this word still has other senses in different contexts, such as ‘university club’, ‘athletic club’, etc. Those senses of Eng. club are the ones that translate as club in Spanish.

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