Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Eng. -age ~ Sp. -aje, Part 22: Spanish words in -aje (g)

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 18, "Eng. language and Sp. lenguaje: words ending in Eng. -age and Sp. -aje", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

[GO TO THE LISTING OF ALL THE PARTS OF THIS CHAPTER]



chantaje (1925) ‘blackmail’ is a synonym of extorsión ‘extortion’ and perhaps even coacción ‘coercion’.[1] This too is an early 20th century loanword from French, namely from Fr. chantage ‘blackmail’, a word first attested in 1837, derived from the verb Fr. chanter ‘to sing’, a cognate of Sp. cantar and of Eng. chant (cf. Part II, Chapter 6).

The sense of the verb chanter that chantage developed from is a figurative one that this verb has in the idiomatic expression faire chanter quelqu’un that literally means ‘to make somebody sing’ and, figuratively, ‘to blackmail somebody’.[2] Curiously, the word chantage is found in some English dictionaries, which presented as a French foreign loanword, first used in English in 1874 and synonymous with blackmail. It is fair to say that not many English speakers would recognize this as an English word, whereas its Spanish cognate is a common word in that language.

Spanish has developed a few words from the loanword chantaje. The most basic one is the verb chantajear ‘to blackmail’, which first appears in the DRAE in 1983. This verb is formed by using the most common Spanish suffix that derives verbs from nouns: ‑e‑ar, as in guerrear ‘to wage war’ (< guerra ‘war’; cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.6.2.1). The English equivalent is to blackmail, a verb derived from the noun blackmail by conversion. It is also equivalent to Fr. faire chanter, the expression we just saw from which chantage is derived. Sp. chantajear is equivalent to the expression hacer chantaje (i.e. hacerle chantaje a alguien), a calque of the French expression, e.g. Me hacen chantaje ‘I’m being blackmailed, they’re blackmailing me’, which is equivalent to Me chantajean.

Another word derived from chantaje is chantajista ‘blackmailer’, formed with the agent suffix ‑ista. (Note that this meaning is expressed in Modern French as maître-chanteur ‘lit. master singer’.) As for what to call a person being blackmailed, a common expression is víctima de (un) chantaje.


coraje (1832) is also a loan from French, but a much earlier one than the other ones we have just seen, and the source may have already existed in Vulgar Latin. Sp. coraje has two different and somewhat distantly related meanings. One is ‘courage, bravery’, synonymous with (rare) Sp. valentía (< valiente ‘courageous’), arrojo ‘bravery, daring’ (< arrojar ‘to throw, etc.’), and valor ‘valor’ (note that Sp. valor can also mean ‘value’). The other meaning is ‘anger’, synonymous with rabia, ira, cólera, enojo. Since the original meaning of the word in the original French was ‘bravery’, it would seem that this second sense was perhaps derived from the first one by the association between anger and the performance of fearless or daring actions.

Spanish borrowed the word coraje in the 14th century from Old French corage or curage ‘courage’, later spelled courage, pronounced [ku.ˈʀaʒ] in Modern French. This word is attested as early as the mid-11th century in French. Eng. courage is a cognate of Sp. coraje and it is also a loanword from the same Old French word. It is also first attested in the 14th century. Curiously, coraje does not appear in the DRAE until 1832, though it is found in a dictionary already in 1505.

Versions of this word are found in several Romance languages, such as Provençal and Catalan coratge, and Italian coraggio. Thus, some think that there may have been a Vulgar Latin *corāticum that this word descends from, though such a word is unattested. Another possibility is that the word developed in one of these languages and spread from there to the others. What is clear is that the word is derived from the Latin noun cŏr ‘heart’ (genitive: cordis, accusative: cor), which in Old French was cor or cur, by means of the suffix ‑age. This word is a cognate of Eng. core and it is related to Sp. corazón ‘heart’.[3]

Interestingly, it seems that when coraje was first borrowed from French it was mostly used with the ‘anger’ sense that the word presumably developed in Spanish, not so much with the ‘valor’ sense that the original French word had, though in later times the ‘valor’ sense became strong too, perhaps by the influence of the French word. This obviously rendered the word dangerously polysemous and potentially confusing, which is perhaps why some Spanish dialects tend to prefer to use other words instead that are synonymous with the intended meaning. In (parts of) Spanish-speaking America, the word coraje is still commonly used with the ‘anger’ sense, but not so much in Spain, for example, where other alternatives are more common nowadays, such as rabia. Both coraje and rabia are used in very common expressions such as ¡Qué coraje/rabia! ‘How upsetting!, How annoying!’ and Me da coraje/rabia ‘It makes me mad/angry’, though different dialects tend to prefer one over the other.

There are a few Spanish words derived from the noun coraje, though they are not very common. One of them is the adjective corajoso/a, which is formed with the adjective-forming suffix ‑os‑o/a, cognate with Eng. ‑ous, which would seem to make it a cognate of Eng. courageous. Strangely enough, corajudo first appeared in the DRAE in 1729 (the first edition), before coraje did (it also appears in an earlier dictionary from 1607). Of all the major Spanish dictionaries, the word corajoso only appears in the DLE, which tells us that it means ‘angry, irritated’ (‘enojado, irritado’) and that it once meant ‘spirited, energetic, brave/courageous’ (‘animoso, esforzado, valeroso’). Thus, we see that the best way to translate Eng. courageous today is not corajoso/a, but rather valiente or even valeroso/a.

There is another Spanish word that means ‘courageous’ that is also derived from coraje, namely corajudo/a, which is attested as early as the 14th century and is not common today. This word, however, can also be used with the sense ‘prone to anger’, particularly in Spain (synonym: colérico/a). The word is formed with the Spanish suffix ‑ud‑o/a that forms augmentatives, as in barbudo/a ‘bearded’, cabezudo/a ‘bigheaded’, tripudo/a ‘paunchy, big-bellied, pot-bellied’, and peludo/a ‘hairy’.

An even rarer word derived from coraje is corajina ‘outburst of anger’, formed with a rare suffix ‑in-a that can mean intense and sudden action, as in regañina ‘scolding, telling-off, talking-to, tongue-lashing’ (< regañar ‘to scold, tell off, etc.’), (rare) degollina ‘slaughter, massacre’ (< degollar ‘to cut the throat of’), and escabechina ‘massacre’ (< escabechar ‘to souse, pickle; fam. to kill, bump off, do in’).

Finally, there is a verb derived from the noun coraje. The verb is encorajar (en‑coraj-ar), which means something like ‘to encourage’, in the sense of ‘cheering’. This verb first appears in the DRAE in 1803 (also found in an earlier dictionary from 1787). It is quite likely that Sp. encorajar is a loanword from Old French encoragier (Modern French encourager), which is also the source of Eng. encourage (first attested in the early 15th century). Actually, encorajar is a rare word today and bilingual dictionaries for the most part do not suggest it as a translation of Eng. encourage. Better equivalents of Eng. encourage are animar (also, though less commonly, embravecer and alentar) for the ‘cheer’ sense, and fomentar, favorecer, estimular for the ‘stimulate’ sense. This verb can also be used reflexively, as encorajarse, and then it means ‘to get furious, get angry’ (a derived synonym, also quite rare today, is encorajinarse).


[1] The English word blackmail has nothing to do with mail as we understand the word today (or with blackness for that matter). This is a mid 16th century expression used to refer to ‘a tribute levied on farmers in Scotland and the border counties of England by freebooting Scottish chiefs in return for protection or immunity from plunder’ (OED). The mail word is now obsolete as a separate word in Standard English, but it has survived in Scots and in northern dialects of English. It used to mean something like ‘payment, tax, tribute, rent’. It comes from Old English mal ‘lawsuit, terms, bargaining, agreement’, a loanword from Old Norse mál ‘speech, agreement’ which was a cognate of the patrimonial English word mæl ‘speech’, now also obsolete. The black part of the expression refers to the evil of the practice. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the term blackmail was also used for ‘Rent payable in cattle, labour, or coin other than silver’ (OED), that is, rent known as silver mail ‘rent or tribute paid in silver’. By the late 18th century, blackmail had come to mean ‘any payment or other benefit extorted by threats or pressure, especially by threatening to reveal a damaging or incriminating secret’ (OED).

By the way, the Modern English word mail that means ‘letters and parcels sent by post’ (COED; Sp. correo) has a different origin. It comes from Old French male, which comes from a Germanic word meaning something like ‘bag’, ultimately from Proto-Germanic *malhō ‘leather bag’. The rare spelling change of the vowel of this English word from a to ai was done presumably to differentiate this word from the word male that means ‘of or denoting the sex that can fertilize or inseminate the female to produce offspring’ (COED) or by similarity with the mail that meant ‘rent, etc.’. (Eng. male comes from Old French masle, from Latin masculus, source of Sp. macho.)

[2] In colloquial Spanish, the verb cantar ‘to sing’ has a figurative (non-literal) meaning that involves revealing information. However, the meaning is quite different from the one chanter has in French, namely ‘to confess or reveal something secret or confidential, usually after an interrogation’ (DUEAE: coloquial ‘Confesar o revelar lo secreto o confidencial, generalmente tras un interrogatorio’), e.g. El detenido ha cantado y ya se conoce a los restantes miembros de la banda ‘The prisoner has talked and it is known who the other members of the band are’. The English equivalents are to spill the beans, to talk, to confess.

[3] Whereas in most other Romance languages the word for ‘heart’ comes directly from the Latin word cor, Spanish and Portuguese have ‘extended’ or ‘derived’ version so this word: Sp. corazón (1100) and Port. coração. There are several theories as to how these words were derived and with what suffixes, though none is fully convincing. Spanish conserved the patrimonial cuer from Lat. cŏr as late as the 13th century. As for why the original cuer was not preserved and was replaced (by corazón), it has been suggested that perhaps it was to prevent the confusion with the word cuero ‘(human or animal) skin’, from Lat. cŏrĭum (same meaning).

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