Monday, March 19, 2018

Spanish loanwords from English, Part 6: sándwich


sándwich (masculine noun, pl. sándwiches)

This is a fully accepted word in Spanish despite its odd spelling and sound structure from the point of view of Spanish. Actually, from the perspective of the Academia, it is probably better to say that this word is tolerated given its popular acceptance (see below). In Spanish like in English, this is a common word for food between two slices of sliced bread, even though eating sandwiches is not as common or popular a thing in the Spanish-speaking word as in the English-speaking world.[i] The term for an open or open-faced sandwich, which only has one slice of bread, is sándwich abierto, an obvious clone.

The term sliced bread in English refers to a type of bread with cuboid shape (or pan de molde in Spanish) that is typically sold already cut into slices. This type of bread has become available quite recently in Spanish-speaking countries and it is still not very common. Sliced-bread sandwiches, however, are quite a common novelty, especially in eating establishments, if not home-made. In many Spanish-speaking countries bread is not a common staple and tortillas are preferred. In Spain, sandwiches have not come anywhere close to replacing the ubiquitous bocadillo, which is made with sliced baguette type bread (Sp. pan de barra or barra de pan) and corresponds more closely to a roll or sub in English (in colloquial British English, butty or sarnie). The noun bocadillo is a diminutive from the noun bocado that means ‘bite’ and ‘snack’ (as in ‘bite to eat’). The noun bocado obviously comes from the noun boca ‘mouth’. The bocadillo sandwich is only found in Spain, however. In Colombia and Venezuela, bocadillo is the name for guava jelly. In recent decades, Spaniards have taken to changing the word bocadillo to bocata in colloquial speech.

The English word sandwich [ˈsænd.wɪʧ] comes from the 18th century presumed inventor of (or big aficionado to) this type of food, John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich (a town in Kent, England). Presumably, eating his food this way allowed him to continue playing cards, his favorite pastime, while he ate. It is quite likely, however, that the Spanish word sándwich did not come directly into Spanish from English but indirectly through French, which borrowed this word first, in the early 19th century (it is first attested in 1802).

The Spanish loan sándwich is fairly recent and has kept its foreign spelling, with the only addition of accent mark, which is required in a word with penultimate stress that ends in a consonant. In addition to its foreign spelling, the word has three sound clues that tells us that it is a foreign word. Let us start by saying that this word is typically pronounced [ˈsaŋ.ɡu̯iʧ] or [ˈsan.du̯iʧ], as if it was written sángüich or sánduich, though, strangely enough, no attempt has been made to change its spelling and in that sense this word is like whisky (see above).[1] These typical pronunciations contain the expected adaptations of a foreign word to Spanish phonology since in Spanish, syllables do not end in the consonant cluster ‑nd and, thus, the d is dropped or moved to the following syllable, and they do not start with w- either, a sound that in that position is typically reinforced with a [ɡ] sound in that position.

Spanish also does not have native words that end in ch (the sound [ʧ]) and thus sandwich, another feature that begs to be nativized. (Actually, no syllables end in the sound [ʧ] in Spanish, not just word-final ones.) Thus, it is not surprising that in some South American countries, a final vowel is added to the word, a phenomenon known as paragoge. This change is reflected in the spelling in the form of an added final e, cf. sandwiche. (For more on Spanish phonology and sound combination preferences, see Chapter 7.)

The native word emparedado has been often promoted as an alternative to sándwich, but it has not been able to replace this innovation. The noun emparedado is derived by conversion from the past participle of the verb emparedar ‘to wall in, put between walls, to imprison’, an old Spanish word derived from pared ‘wall’. Its use as a replacement for the word sándwich dates from the end of the 19th century. According to the DPD, it is preferable to use this native word than the Anglicism sándwich. In Spain, the word bocadillo (see above), has also been proposed as an alternative to sándwich, but that did not catch on either.

Finally, English has turned the noun sandwich into a verb to sandwich, which first appears in the mid-19th century, about 80 years after the noun. Its primary meaning is ‘to insert (one thing) tightly between two other things of differing character or quality’ (AHD). This verb can be translated into Spanish as encajonar, meter, or apretujar. The most common form of the verb to sandwich is the past participle, used as an adjective. On the other hand, Spanish has created the derived noun sandwichera for a sandwich toaster or toasted sandwich maker.


[1] Actually, the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (DPD) tells us that “in some American countries, especially in Colombia, Venezuela, Chile and Peru, adaptations of this word are sometimes used in writing, such as sánduche o sánguche, which are typical of colloquial registers and that we advise against in favor of a standard form”.

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