Saturday, October 10, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 16

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


Sp. cascar and related words

The Spanish verb cascar is also related to the Latin verb quăssāre that was derived from the verb quătĕre that we have been discussing in this chapter. This is the last Spanish descendant of that verb that we will explore here. The main meaning of transitive Sp. cascar is ‘to crack’, referring to something easily cracked, in particular the hard outside of things like nuts and eggs, e.g. cascar un huevo ‘to crack an egg’. As usual, this verb can be rendered intransitive by conjugating it pronominally (as a reflexive verb), e.g. El plato se cascó ‘The plate cracked’. In both cases, it is implied that the pieces that were broken did not fully separate. When speaking of something dishware, cascar can also be equivalent to Eng. chip.[a] This verb is a cognate of Catalan cascar and Portuguese cascar.

In addition, Sp. cascar has a number of mostly colloquial and thus typically dialectal senses, some of which are common only in Spain. These senses are labelled coloquial in the DLE and informal in MM. A colloquial transitive sense means ‘to hit, beat (someone)’, as in Su padre les casca ‘Their father hits them’. With the subject or object la voz ‘voice’, cascar has the meaning ‘to became hoarse’, as in Se le cascó la voz (subject) de tanto gritar ‘He became hoarse from so much screaming’, Si gritas tanto, te cascarás la voz (object) ‘If you scream so much, you will become hoarse’.

Some of the idiomatic uses are used only in Spain. With or without a direct object la, cascar(la) is used in Spain with the meaning ‘to die’, something like the ‘kick the bucket’ in English, as in Mi padre (la) cascó el año pasado ‘My father kicked the bucket last year’. Also in Spain, pronominal cascársela is used colloquially with the meaning ‘masturbate’, equivalent to the expressions ‘to jerk off’ in the US and ‘to wank’ in Britain. In Spain, intransitive cascar can be used colloquially with the meaning ‘to chat, talk a lot’ (cf. charlar), and ‘to harm’ (cf. hacer daño), as in La bebida casca ‘Drinking is bad for you’ (AEIV; cf. Este wiski casca mucho ‘This whiskey is really strong/really hits you’).

The Academies’ Diccionario de americanismos mentions several uses of the word cascar in different American countries that are unknown in other countries (and in particular in Spain). Three main senses are identified, one of which has two subsenses, all of which are colloquial (labeled popular in the DAm). Transitive cascar can mean in Ecuador ‘to chew something hard until breaking it’ and in parts of Bolivia ‘to chew on a bone until all meat is gone’. Another sense of cascar in those same parts of Bolivia is ‘to do something with great desire and determination’. Finally, in Chile, intransitive cascar means ‘to take off in a hurry’.[b]

Sp. cascar is thought to have descended patrimonially (by uninterrupted word-of-mouth transmission) from a Vulgar Latin verb *quassicare ‘to strike repeatedly’, not attested in writing but assumed to have existed because of its reflexes (descendants) in Spanish and other Romance languages. This Vulgar Latin verb would have been derived from the root quass‑ of Latin verb quăssāre by means of the suffix ‑ĭc‑ that formed first-conjugation verbs in Latin and added the sense of frequent or repetitive action to the meaning of a verb. Two other verbs derived with this suffix are fodĭcāre ‘to dig; to pierce, stab’ from the verb fodĕre ‘to dig, bury, etc.’ (fod‑ĭc‑āre) and albĭcāre ‘to whiten, make white’ from the verb albēre ‘to be white’, from the adjective albus/a ‘white’ (alb‑ĭc‑āre). Sp. cascar is first attested in writing in the late 15th century, though cognates in other Romance languages appear earlier, such as Cat. cascar in the 13th century.

As for the changes in the form of this word from V.Lat. quassicare to Sp. cascar, that is the sound changes and thus the spelling changes, they are quite predictable. The loss of the Latin [u] is no surprise since Latin qu [kw] was reduced to [k] in Old Spanish before the vowels [e], [i], and (almost always) before unstressed [a], as in this case. This [k] sound is spelled qu before [e] and [i] in Spanish but c before [a], as in this case, cf. Eng. quality ~ Sp. calidad, Eng. quantity ~ Sp. cantidad. As for the loss of the vowel [i], that is also totally predictable, since it was an intertonic vowel, that is, a low energy vowel in word-internal position next to a stressed syllable (cf. Part I, Chapter 8).

Sp. cascar, which as we saw comes from V.Lat. *quassicare, has a very similar source as Sp. quejar, which comes from V.Lat. *quassiare, which makes these words cognate (related), but not cognates (doublets), since they do not come from the very same lexeme in the source language (cf. Part I, Chapter 1). Although the sources differ in just one letter, the medial ‑c‑, that small difference made a big difference in the evolution of these two patrimonial words. That is because the ‑i‑ of four-syllable *quassicare was a true vowel [i], whereas the ‑i‑ of three-syllable *quassiare was a semivowel [i̯]. As we saw above, in *quassiare, the semivowel caused the change of the preceding consonant [s] (originally [ss], but such double consonants always reduced to one in Old Spanish) to a palatal [ʃ] (and eventually jota [x] or [h] in the 17th century). Finally, the palatal consonant [ʃ] was  itself responsible for the change in the root vowel from [a] to [e]. In the case of *quassicare, the antepenultimate vowel was lost in Old Spanish due to the fact that it was an intertonic vowel, as we just saw.

There are a number of common words related to the Spanish verb cascar. First we have the adjective cascado/a, which is derived by conversion from the (identical) past participle of the verb cascar meaning ‘cracked’. This adjective means ‘hoarse’ when referring to a person’s voice, cf. voz cascada ‘hoarse voice’. In addition, this adjective is used colloquially in Spain and perhaps other dialects with the meaning ‘worn out, decrepit’ when referring to people, for instance, e.g. Mi padre está muy cascado ‘My father is quite decrepit’, and ‘broken down’ when referring to things such as machines, as in Mi coche está muy cascado ‘My car is a wreck’.

Several nouns are derived from the verb cascar. The main one is cáscara, which refers to the hard protective outside of many edibles, such as the shell of an egg, the husk of grain, or even the skin of fruit if it is hard (if thin and soft, the skin of fruit is known as piel ‘skin’). This name is presumably due to the fact that this outside part needs to be cracked or broken (cascar) in order to get to the edible part.

According to DCEH, the word cáscara is first attested in the early 14th century and it was formed in Spanish from the verb cascar. The development of cáscara from cascar however does not follow a regular Spanish word-development pattern, so it is not clear how the word developed. However, there is a variant of cáscara that was more like what we would have expected in a noun developed from this verb (by conversion), namely casca, which was very common in earlier times as a variant of cáscara (DCEH). The dictionary tells us that casca is still a possible synonym of cáscara (the first sense in María Moliner’s dictionary and the fourth one in the Academies’ dictionary), though it is quite rare today, and this word is mostly used with other (rare) meanings, such as ‘grape skins after crushing and squeezing’ and ‘bark of certain trees, used to tan hides and dye fishing gear and tackle’ (DLE).[c]

Even less frequent as a synonym of cáscara is the masculine companion of casca, namely casco, which is used in some dialects to refer to an eggshell (DCEH). However, the noun casco is very common in Spanish with different meanings, including its main meaning today, which is ‘helmet’ or ‘hardhat’. Sp. casco is attested from the earliest times (Mio Cid), with different senses, such as ‘broken piece of pot or roof tile’, ‘skull, head’, and ‘piece of armor covering the head’ (DCEH). Sp. casco is the source of Fr. casque and It. casco for a piece of armor, for these languages borrowed this word from Spanish (DCEH). But Sp. casco has several other meanings: ‘hoof of an animal’, ‘hull of a ship’, ‘central part of a town or city’ (e.g. casco antiguo ‘old part of town’, casco urbano ‘town/city center’), and in the plural, ‘headphones’ (Ponte los cascos ‘Put on your headphones’), empty bottle (= envase), ‘broken piece, fragment’, and ‘piece of shrapnel’.

Sp. cascarón is quite clearly an augmentative of Sp. cáscara, formed with the augmentative suffix ‑ón (cascar-ón). Its meaning is primarily ‘eggshell’, as in cascarón de huevo ‘eggshell, shell of an egg’. This word is used in the colloquial expression recién salido/a del cascarón that means something like ‘just hatched’ or, less literally, ‘wet behind the ears’.

According to DCEH, casco originally meant something like ‘broken piece of pot’ and from this sense, the ‘skull’ sense was derived. This meaning shift is not as rare as it might seem, however. So, for instance, Lat. testa, which meant originally ‘a piece of burned clay, a brick, tile’ (L&S) (but also ‘earthen pot, pitcher, jug, urn, etc.’), is the source of the word for ‘head’ in some Romance languages, such as Fr. tête [ˈtɛt] and It. testa. The connection between the meanings ‘skull’ and ‘helmet’, however, is less obvious. DCEH notes that the word for a metal helmet in Latin was cassis (genitive: cassĭdis; regular stem: cassĭd‑), a word of unknown origin but definitely not related to the word that meant ‘piece of burned clay, etc.’. It is thus possible that the word casco came to be used for an armor helmet due to the phonetic similarity between this and the Latin word.

Another noun derived from cascar is cascajo ‘(builders’) rubble, construction debris’ or, colloquially, ‘piece of junk’. In Colombia, however, it can mean ‘piece of gravel’. A colloquial expression with cascajo is estar hecho/a un cascajo ‘(said of a person) to be a wreck’ (AEIV). This word was attested in the 12th century as cascago, cf. Asturian cascayu (DCEH).

By the way, the noun cascada ‘waterfall, cascade’ is unrelated to the Spanish word cascar (and thus its participle cascado/a) since that word is a loanword from Italian cascata ‘fall’, probably borrowed through Fr. cascade which seems to have borrowed it first; cf. Eng. cascade, a 17th century loan of Italian cascata borrowed through French cascade. Italian cascata word comes from the past participle of the Italian verb cascare ‘to fall’, descended from Vulgar Lat. *casicare, a verb derived by means of the suffix ‑ĭc‑ we just saw from Lat. cadĕre ‘to fall’, source of Sp. caer ‘to fall’. More specifically, the verb casicare was developed from the stem cās‑ of the passive participle cāsus ‘fallen’ of the verb cadĕre ‘to fall’, not from the present stem cad‑. Thus, Vulgar Lat. *casicare and *cassicare are not in any way related and neither are words derived from them.

Finally, we should mention that there are at least two quite common compound words formed with the verb cascar. One is cascanueces ‘nutcracker’, derived from the phrase cascar nueces ‘to crack (wal)nuts’. (The Spanish word nuez means ‘walnut’ and there is no single word to translate the English word nut with the meaning ‘a fruit consisting of a hard or tough shell around an edible kernel’, COED.)

The other common compound with cascar is cascarrabias ‘cantankerous, grumpy (person)’, an oddly formed compound. María Moliner defines this term as ‘person who gets angry for little reason’ and gives several interesting synonyms: bejín, berrín, berrinchudo, corajudo, paparrabias, perrengue, rabietas, rabietillas, and tufillas. The compound word cascarrabias was probably derived from an idiomatic expression cascar rabias, but this expression is rather meaningless in modern Spanish. The word rabia means ‘rage, fury, anger’ in Spanish, though its meaning in medicine is ‘rabies’, which makes this word cognate with Eng. rabiesɹ̯biz]. Sp. rabia is a very common word found in expressions such as dar rabia ‘to make furious’ and tenerle rabia a alguien ‘to be furious at somebody, to have it in for somebody’, con rabia ‘angrily, in a rage’, and ¡Qué rabia! ‘How annoying!’. Sp. rabia V.Lat. rabia a reformed first-declension version of an earlier fifth-declension rabiēs ‘rage, madness’, derived from the verb rabĕre ‘to be mad, rave’. (Note that this verb is not the source of Eng. rave, borrowed through Old French raver, variant of resver, in the early 14th century, of uncertain origin.)

Another term that sounds related to the verb cascar but is not is cascabel ‘bell, jingle bell’. This word is a loanword from Occitan or perhaps Catalan cascavel, a diminutive of Vulgar Latin cascabus, a variant of Lat. caccăbus or cācăbus ‘cooking pot’.



[a] María Moliner’s dictionary defines the first and main sense of the verb cascar as follows: ‘cascar (del sup. lat. «quassicāre») 1. tr. y prnl. *Romper[se] una cosa quebradiza; particularmente, la envoltura leñosa de los ↘frutos secos como nueces, avellanas o piñones. Quebrantar[se]. Romper[se] un ↘objeto de esa clase sin que lleguen a separarse los trozos: ‘El vaso se ha cascado al caerse’. *Agrietar[se], *rajar[se]. Frañer, partir, quebrantar. Descascar, descascarar, descascarillar. Cascanueces, cascapiñones, cascarrabias. *Picar. (MM). The Academies’ dictionary is much less specific: ‘1. tr. Quebrantar o hender algo quebradizo. U. t. c. prnl.’ (DLE).

[b] The original entry is: ‘cascar. I. 1. tr. Ec. p.u. Masticar algo duro hasta romperlo con los dientes. pop. 2. Bo:O,C. Roer un hueso hasta dejarlo sin carne. pop. II. 1. intr. Ch. Irse alguien rápidamente de un lugar. pop + cult → espon. III. 1. tr. Bo:O,C. Hacer algo con muchas ganas y ahínco. pop + cult → espon.’ (DAm)

[c] The original says: ‘casca (De cascar). 1. f. Hollejo de la uva después de pisada y exprimida. 2. Corteza de ciertos árboles, que se usa para curtir las pieles y teñir artes y aparejos de pesca. 3. Rosca compuesta de mazapán y cidra o batata, bañada y cubierta con azúcar. 4. cáscara (ǁ corteza o cubierta exterior). 5. Tol. aguapié (ǁ vino muy bajo)’ (DLE).


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 15

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


Eng. quash and squash, and Sp. casar and concuasar

As we saw earlier, the English verb quash, pronounced [ˈkʰwɒʃ] or [ˈkʰwɑʃ], depending on the dialect, is a 13th century loanword from an Old French verb that was attested with different spellings, among them quaisser, quaissier, quasier, and quassier (OED). The reflex of this verb in Modern French is casser, meaning ‘to break’, as we mentioned earlier. We find different spellings for this verb in Middle English, such as cwesse, queysse, quasche, quassch, quassh, and quaysch. The Old French verb seems to descend from a Vulgar Latin variant *quassiare of classical Latin quăssāre, the same Latin verb that has supposedly given us Sp. quejar, as we saw in the preceding section.

The verb quash has two quite different main meanings in Modern English:

(1)  ‘to put down or suppress forcibly and completely (AHD), which is applied to things such as revolts, as in quash a rebellion; this sense can be translated into Spanish as sofocar, aplastar, or acallar; and

(2)  ‘to set aside or annul, especially by judicial action’ (AHD), which is a legal term, e.g. The High Court later quashed his conviction for murder (LDCE); this sense of quash translates into Spanish as anular, invalidar, or revocar

It is thought that the reason there are two such rather different meanings for Eng. quash is that the these meanings actually come ultimately from two different Latin verbs which merged at some point in Medieval Latin, before the word was borrowed into English or even French. Only one of these meanings, the ‘suppress’ sense, would descend from classical Lat. quassāre, whereas the ‘cancel’ sense presumably comes from a post-classical Lat. cassāre, which merged with quassāre in Medieval Latin and from there made it into Old French. This Latin verb cassāre originally meant ‘to bring to naught, destroy’ and in the language of jurists, ‘to annul, make null or void’ (synonymous with abrogāre; L&S). This verb is attested in the 4th century with the sense ‘to destroy’, in the 5th century with the sense ‘to annul’, and by the 12th century with the sense ‘to reject’ (OED). The original Latin verb cassāre was derived from the classical Latin adjective cassus/a/um ‘null, empty, hollow, etc.’, a word that has not been passed on to most Romance languages (cass‑us > cass‑āre).

The Latin verb cassāre has been borrowed by Spanish, though it is a rare legal term. Portuguese also borrowed the Latin verb, as cassar. This Spanish verb is casar, which is homophonous and homonymous with the verb casar a transitive verb that means ‘to marry’ (the intransitive meaning ‘to get married’ is given by the pronominal or reflexive casarse). The meaning of this legal verb casar is simply ‘to quash’, which the DLE defines by means of some synonyms: ‘anular, abrogar, derogar’ (cf. Eng. annul, abrogate, derogate). María Moliner’s dictionary is more explicit and tells us that this verb is typically used to describe the annulment of a court’s sentence by a higher court.[1]

María Moliner’s dictionary also tells us that the verb casar that means ‘to quash’ used to have a synonym, now obsolete, namely concuasar, a loanword from Lat. conquassāre, a verb derived from the verb quassāre by means of the intensive prefix con‑ (con‑quass‑āre) and which meant ‘to shake severely’ and ‘to shatter, dash to pieces’ (L&S). The obsolete Spanish verb concuasar does not appear in many Spanish dictionaries since it is now obsolete. It does appear in the DLE and MM dictionaries and, interestingly, only María Moliner’s tells us that this verb had the ‘annul’ sense (like casar), now obsolete. Both dictionaries tell us that concuasar used to have a ‘smash, break’ sense (like in the Latin source). In addition, María Moliner’s dictionary tells us about the obsolete ‘annul’ sense. The Academies’ dictionary tells us that in Bolivia concuasar is still used in Bolivia to this day as a transitive verb with the meaning ‘to match up, fit together’, which is curiously a derived sense of the other, unrelated verb casar that means ‘to marry’, according to the Academies’ dictionary (DLE).[2] The Diccionario de americanismos (DA) differs somewhat with this claim and tells us that concuasar is an intransitive verb used in Perú, Bolivia and Paraguay to mean ‘to match, adjust or square one thing with another’ and in Bolivia to mean ‘for two or more people agree on something that has been said or done’.[3]

Most dictionaries treat the two senses of the English verb quash as just two senses of the very same word, a single verb quash. However, at least one major dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, gives two different homonymous verbs side by side because of their different ultimate sources. Thus, if we look for the word quash in this dictionary, we find the entries quash1 and quash2.

In addition to borrowing the French descendant of the Latin verb cassāre, English also borrowed a Latin noun derived from this verb, namely the late Latin action noun cassātĭōn‑, derived by means of the suffix ‑ĭōn‑ from the stem cassa‑t‑ of the verb’s passive participle cassātus (cass‑ā‑t‑ĭōn‑). This noun is not attested in classical Latin, so it may have been formed in Medieval Latin or even in French after this language borrowed the Latin verb.

The noun cassation was borrowed into both English and French in the early 15th century. The OED says that Eng. cassation, pronounced [kæˈseɪ̯ʃən] or [kəˈseɪ̯ʃən], came into English from Latin, but it is quite likely that it was formed in French first and from there it passed on to English. The meaning of these words was ‘the action of making null or void; cancellation, abrogation’ (OED).[4] The cognate word casación is attested in Spanish with the same meaning, also by the end of the 15th century, and it probably also came through French. The noun is found in collocations such as recurso de casación ‘appeal in a high court’, tribunal de casación ‘court of cassation’.

The OED tells us that the noun cassation was also used with another sense in the 17th century, a sense that is now obsolete: ‘dismissal of a soldier; cashiering’ (OED). Interestingly, English has another noun cassation, one that means ‘a piece of instrumental music of the eighteenth century similar to the serenade, and often performed out of doors’ (OED), a ‘minor musical genre related to the serenade and divertimento’ (WP). This is a 19th century loan from German kassation, a term used since the second half of the 18th century for a ‘loosely assembled sets of short movements intended for outdoor performance by orchestral or chamber ensembles’, a genre that ‘was popular in southern German-speaking lands’ (WP). The origin for the musical sense of this word has been said to be Italian cassazione, for example by the OED, but this is by no means certain.[5]

English has another verb that is ultimately related to Lat. quassāre, namely one derived in Vulgar Latin from this verb by means of the prefix ex‑, i.e. *exquassāre. This verb made it into Old French as esquasser (also escasser) or esquacer (also escacier) (cognate with Italian squassare). English borrowed this verb from French resulting in Modern English squash, pronounced [ˈskwɒʃ], [ˈskwɔʃ], or [skwɑʃ], depending on the dialect. This verb has two major meanings, each one with additional subsenses (COED):

(1)  ‘crush or squeeze (something) so that it becomes flat, soft, or out of shape; squeeze or force into a restricted space’ = Sp. aplastar, chafar, espachurrar; and

(2)  ‘suppress or subdue; firmly reject (an idea or suggestion); silence (someone), typically with a humiliating remark’ = Sp. acallar, aplastar, etc.

From the verb squash a homonymous noun was created in English. Its most basic meanings are ‘the act or sound of squashing’ and ‘the fact or condition of being squashed’ (AHD). This noun is more common in British English and its Spanish translations would be: apiñamiento, agolpamiento, apretujón, or apretón.

The noun squash has also been the name of a sport since around 1900, namely ‘a racket game played in a closed walled court with a rubber ball’ (AHD). The sport’s name is derived from the name of the soft, rubber ball used in this racket game, squash ball, and it is an ellipsis for (British) squash rackets or (US) squash tennis (OED). Spanish has borrowed this English word for the name of the sport without any changes or adaptations: squash. The DLE advises us that this word should be pronounced ‘[eskuás]’ (according to María Moliner’s dictionary, it should be ‘[escuásh]’). Finally, let us mention that in Great Britain, the same noun squash is also the name of ‘a citrus-based soft drink’ (AHD). The OED tells us that since the late 19th century, this has been a short form for the compound lemon-squash.

Finally, note that this verb squash and the nouns derived from it are totally unrelated to the homophonous noun squash that means ‘a gourd with flesh that can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable’, as well as ‘the plant which produces squashes. [Several species and varieties of the genus Cucurbita.]’ (COED). This noun squash is a loanword from the Native American Narragansett language asquutasquash, borrowed in the 17th century, which is derived from the root asq that means ‘raw, uncooked’ and meant something like ‘vegetable eating green/raw’. The vegetable name translates into Spanish as calabaza.

Go to Part 16 (coming soon)


[1] The original says: ‘Derecho Particularmente, anular un *tribunal una *↘sentencia dada por otro. ⇒ Concuasar’ (MM).

[2] In María Moliner’s dictionary, the original says: ‘concuasar 1. (ant.) tr. Hacer pedazos ↘algo con un golpe. *Romper. 2. (ant.) Casar (*anular)’ (MM), and in the Academies’ dictionary: ‘concuasar 1. tr. Bol. casar (ǁ corresponder una cosa con otra). 2. ant. Quebrantar, estrellar, hacer pedazos’ (DLE).

[3] The original says: ‘concuasar. I. 1. intr. Pe, Bo, Py. Coincidir, ajustarse o cuadrarse una cosa con otra. 2. Bo. Coincidir dos o más personas en algo que se ha dicho o hecho’ (DA).

[4] The OED also tells us that there was a ‘Court of Cassation [French Cour de cassation], in France, the appellation of the supreme court of appeal, as having the power in the last resort to alter, or cancel, or quash (casser) decisions of the other courts which are wrong in form or law’ (OED)

[5] Wikipedia has a good summary of the speculations that have been made about the origin of the German term kassation: ‘The etymology of the musical term is uncertain. Mozart’s cassations K. 63 and K. 99 open with marches, and the term has been speculatively linked to the Italian word cassa, meaning “drum”. Hermann Abert was among those who thought that the term derives from the Italian cassare, meaning “to dismiss”, implying a musical farewell, or Abschiedsmusik. The French word casser (to break) was also invoked, based on the notion that the movements could be freely broken up into any order. A more likely derivation, reflecting the outdoor character of the genre, involves a transformation of the Austrian dialectal word gassatim: specifically, gassatim gehen was an expression commonly used by local eighteenth-century musicians to refer to street performance’ (WP).


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 14

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

This is Part 14. Go to Part 1

Words derived from Sp. quejar(se)

Sp. quejoso/a and its various synonyms

In addition to the nouns we just saw that were derived from the verb quejar(se), there are also some adjectives derived from this verb. The main one today is perhaps quejoso/a, which means ‘complaining, whiny, etc.’, as in No tiene por qué estar quejoso ‘He has nothing to complain about’ (AEIV). This adjective is not very common, however, at least in many dialects, and a more common synonymous sentence to the one just given would be No tiene de qué quejarse. Note that English also does not typically use adjectives to describe persons who complain, other than some disparaging ones, such as whiny, an adjective derived from the patrimonial verb to whine, one of whose senses is ‘to complain or protest in a childish fashion’ (AHD).

As usual, Spanish adjectives can typically be used as nouns and the adjective quejoso/a can also be used as a noun, at least in some dialects, with the meaning ‘complainer, person who complains’, as in de acuerdo a los quejosos ‘according to the people who complained’ (Oxford Spanish-English Dictionary = OSD). The term is not a positive or neutral one, but rather a negative and disparaging one. One dictionary mentions other English nouns that can translate the noun quejoso/a: fusspot, fussbudget, moper, grouch, curmudgeon, cry-baby, whiner, grouser, and griper (GU). Still, the noun is not very common, at least in perhaps most dialects.

There are various synonyms of the adjective quejoso/a, used mostly in colloquial Spanish. One of them is quejica, an invariant adjective meaning ‘whining, whiny’ or as ‘complaining, grumpy, querulous’ (AEIV), as in Juan es muy quejica ‘Juan is always complaining’. This adjective can also be used as noun and then it can translate as ‘moaner, grouse’ (AEIV), as in Juan es un quejica ‘Juan is a moper’. The word quejica is obviously derived from the stem quej‑ and an ending ‑ica, whose source is not clear. It is found only in a handful of colloquial words and its meaning is pejorative and derogatory. The most common such words are the following, all of them seem to be primarily nouns, though they can also be used as adjectives: lloricanoun crybaby, moaner; adj. whining’, from llorar ‘to cry’; cobardicanoun wuss, wimp; adj. wussy’, from cobarde ‘coward’; roñicaadj. stingy, miserly; noun scrooge, miser’, from the invariant roña ‘adj. stingy’ (the noun roña means primarily ‘rust’); acusicanoun tattletale, telltale’ (= chivato/a, soplón/a), from acusar ‘to accuse’; and abusica noun bully’, from abusar ‘to abuse’ (this last one is not found in any of the major Spanish dictionaries).

The other synonyms of the adjectives quejoso/a and quejica, which seem to be used in different dialects of Spanish to different extents, are the following: quejicoso/a, quejilloso/a, quejumbroso/a, and quejón(a).

Starting with quejicoso/a, María Moliner’s dictionary defines it simply as ‘quejica’ (MM). The Academies’ dictionary does give a definition, though, namely ‘that complains too much and mostly without cause’ (DLE).[1] Obviously, the adjective is derived from the adjective quejica by means of the adjectival suffix ‑os‑o/a (quejicos‑o/a).

As for the adjective quejilloso/a, the DLE tells us that it means ‘that complains too much’ (DLE). It would seem to be derived from the diminutive quejilla ‘small complaint’ of queja. María Moliner defines it in terms of another synonym: ‘quejón’ (see below).

The adjective quejumbroso/a is also not very common, and it is derived from an even less common verb, namely quejumbrar that the DLE defines as ‘to complain frequency and with little reason’ (DLE).[2] This verb seems to have been derived from the even less common noun quejumbre, derived from the noun queja by means of the suffix ‑umbre that we saw in the previous section, which is used to indicate quality or collectivity.

The last colloquial synonym of the adjective quejica, used in some dialects of Spanish, is quejón(a), formed with the augmentative suffix ‑ón(a) (quej-ón-a). Curiously, however, none of the major Spanish dictionaries has an entry for this adjective. Only María Moliner mentions it as an alternative to quejica, along with the other adjectives that were just mentioned, but even this dictionary does not give quejón its own entry.

Old Spanish also had the adjective quexado/a ‘angry, irritated, unhappy’, but that adjective is now obsolete, and no Spanish dictionary even mentions it. The DLE does have an entry for quejada, but we are told that this is an obsolete version of the noun quijada ‘jaw (bone’ (DLE: ‘the mandible of a vertebrate’), an unrelated word derived from Vulgar Latin capsĕum, derived from Lat. capsa ‘box’ (the source of Sp. caja ‘box’). Let us not forget, however, that as we mentioned earlier, the great etymologist Yakov Malkiel argued that the verb quejar was derived from this very word.

As we have seen, all the Spanish nouns used to refer to someone who complains are derived from adjectives and they are all disparaging terms to refer to individuals who complain too much and for little or no reason. Interestingly, no noun related or unrelated to the verb quejarse gives us a neutral term, even one that is equivalent to the English legal term (noun and adjective) complainant that as a noun means ‘a party that makes a complaint or files a formal charge, as in a court of law; a plaintiff’ (AHD). This legal term translates into Spanish as demandante, querellante, or reclamante. Note that English borrowed and adapted the noun complainant from French complaignant, a present participle that was also used as a noun, derived from the verb complaindre. This French verb, through its regular stem complaign‑ (cf. present complaigne) is the source of the English verb complain, borrowed in the 14th century. The original meaning of the English loan was ‘to bewail, lament, deplore’ (OED), a meaning that is now obsolete. The French verb is a reflex of Late Latin complangĕre ‘to bewail’, which was formed by adding the intensive prefix com‑ added to the Latin verb plangĕre ‘to lament, bewail’, originally ‘to strike, beat, beat the breast or head in sign of grief’ (OED). Curiously, Spanish did have a patrimonial cognate of this verb, namely complañir ‘to cry or to pity’, a verb that is now obsolete, but which is still found in major dictionaries such as the Academies’ or María Moliner’s. Not yet obsolete, though rare, is the related verb plañir that descends from Lat. plangĕre, which still has the same meaning that its Latin ancestor had. Slightly more common is the derived noun plañidera ‘hired woman mourner’ (MM: ‘a woman who was paid to attend and cry at burials’, equivalent to endechera, guayadero, and llorona).



[1] The original says: ‘quejicoso, sa adj. Que se queja demasiado, y la mayoría de las veces sin causa’ (DLE).

[2] The original says: ‘intr. Quejarse con frecuencia y con poco motivo’ (DLE). 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 13

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

This is Part 13. Go to Part 1

Words derived from Sp. quejar(se)

Sp. quejido

Another noun related to the verb quejar in Modern Spanish is quejido ‘groan, moan, whine’, first attested at the end of the 16th century. Old Spanish synonyms, now obsolete, were quexura, quexadura, and, less common, quexamiento. The noun quejido is often used in the expressions dar quejidos ‘to moan, groan’ and un quejido de dolor ‘a cry of pain’.

Actually, the form of the noun quejido is quite interesting from an etymological perspective. It might seem to be a noun derived from the passive participle of a verb, as many Spanish nouns are, but since the verb is quejar and its passive participle quejado, this cannot be the case, for ‑ido is the ending for second and third conjugation participles in Spanish and the ending for first conjugation participles is ‑ado (quej‑ar > quej‑ado). So, what is the source of this ending or suffix-like element ‑ido (quej-ido)? The answer seems to be that this noun was derived by analogy with other nouns that describe sounds of different types that also have endings in ‑ido and which are not derived from 2nd or 3rd conjugation participles either. The main ones are the following:

·    chillido ‘shriek, scream, cry; (pig) squeal; (mouse) squeak; (bird) screech’ (16th century), related to the verb chillar ‘to shriek, scream, etc.’ (15c.), perhaps from V.Lat. *cisclare < Late Lat. fistulare < Lat. fistŭla ‘pipe, tube, (music) shepherd's pipe, pipes of Pan’

·    silbido ‘whistle’ (17c.), related to the verb silbar ‘to whistle’ (14c.), from Lat. sībĭlāre ‘to hiss, to whistle’

·    berrido ‘(calf’s) bellow, bellowing; (person’s) howl’, related to the verb berrear ‘to bellow; to bawl’, from Lat. verrēs ‘a boar, male swine’

·    chirrido ‘screech; creak, creaking’ (15c.), related to the verb chirriar ‘to squeak, creak; screech’ (15c.), presumably an onomatopoeic verb

·    balido ‘bleating, bleat’ (14c.), related to the verb balar ‘to bleat’ (13c.), from Lat. balāre

·    aullido ‘howl’ (13c.), related to the verb aullar ‘to howl’, from an earlier *ullar, from Vulgar Lat. ūlŭlāre < Lat. ŭlŭlāre ‘to howl, yell, shriek, utter a mournful cry’

·    maullido ‘meow’ (18c.), related to the verb maullar ‘to meow’ (15c.), a dialectal variant of the verb maular, by influence of aullar, also an onomatopoeic verb

·    graznido ‘(crow’s) caw; (goose’s) honk; (duck’s) quack’ (15c), related to the verb graznar ‘to caw; to honk; to quack’, from an earlier *gracĭnare, from Late Lat. gracitare/gracillare, from Lat. grācŭlus ‘jackdaw’ (bird related to the crow)

·    zumbido ‘buzzing’ (15c), related to the verb zumbar ‘to buzz; to hum, whirr’ (15c), another onomatopoeic verb

·    pitido ‘whistle (sound), whistling; beep, hoot, honk’ (20c.), related to the verb pitar ‘to blow a whistle; to hoot, honk’, from pito ‘whistle, car horn, etc.’, an onomatopoeic noun

It is not clear how these names of sounds came to be derived by means of the ending (suffix?) ‑ido. Most of these words are attested quite late, historically speaking. Perhaps the noun sonido ‘sound’, attested in the 13th century, was the primary catalyst or source of the analogy. This is a semi-learned descendant of the 4th declension noun Lat. sŏnĭtus ‘noise, sound, din’. If this word had been patrimonial, it would have developed into *suendo. In this word, the ‑t‑  changed to ‑d‑, like in patrimonial words, but other expected sound changes did not take place in this word, which is why we say it is a semi-learned word (Sp. semicultismo, cf. Part I, Chapter 1). Note that the stress in this word shifted from the antepenultimate syllable in the Latin word to the penultimate syllable in Spanish, something that would have prevented the short ŏ from diphthongizing to ue in a patrimonial word.

The Latin noun sŏnĭtus was probably derived by conversion from the identical passive participle of the first conjugation verb sŏnāre ‘to sound, resound, make a noise’ (source of Sp. sonar ‘to sound; to ring; etc.’). The reason that this participle was sŏnĭtus and not sŏnātus seems to be due to the fact that verb was earlier a third conjugation verb, sŏnĕre, whose passive participle was rightfully sŏnĭtus. The more common word for the meaning ‘noise, sound’ in Latin was sŏnus, the ultimate source of Eng. sound, from Old French son ‘sound, musical note, voice’, and of Sp. son ‘musical sound’, which is probably a loanword from Occitan, for if it was a patrimonial word it would have been sueno, a word that is actually attested in the Middle Ages (DCEH).

Another early sound-related noun ending in ‑ido which has been said to influence the more recent nouns in ‑ido is tronido, an old word for ‘thunder’ in Spanish (cf. the more common trueno in Modern Spanish), descended from Vulgar Lat. trŏnītus, from Lat. tŏnītrus ‘thunder’, related to the verb tŏnāre (source of Sp. tronar ‘to thunder’, whose r is supposedly due to the influence of the related noun tronido). From the feminine past participle of tronar, namely tronada, Spanish created a noun that means ‘thunderstorm’. This noun was borrowed into English in the 16th century, changing into the word tornado which, incidentally, has been borrowed back by Spanish as tornado with the new meaning it developed in English: ‘a mobile, destructive vortex of violently rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud’ (COED).

Finally, another early sound-related noun ending in ‑ido which might have influenced the creation of the other nouns with this ending is the word ruido ‘noise’, first attested as roido in Mio Cid (DCEH). This noun descends from the fourth declension Latin noun rŭgītus that meant ‘a roaring of lions’ and, by transference, ‘a rumbling in the bowels’ (L&S). This noun was derived by conversion from the identical passive participle of the verb rŭgīre ‘to roar’ (cf. learned Sp. rugir ‘to roar’ and rugido ‘roar’). By the way, Sp. ruido is a cognate of Eng. rut ‘an annual period of sexual activity in deer and some other mammals, during which the males fight each other for access to the females’ (COED).[1]



[1]  This Eng. rut comes from Old French rut, from Latin *rūgitus. It is unrelated to the homonym rut that means ‘a sunken track or groove made by the passage of vehicles’ and ‘a fixed, usually boring routine’ (AHD), which probably comes from Old Fr. rute, also the source of Eng. route. 

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 12

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

This is Part 12. Go to Part 1

Words derived from Sp. quejar(se)

Sp. queja, quejumbre, and quejazón

There are several nouns that have been derived in Spanish from the verb quejar over time. The main one is the noun queja [ˈke.xa], which means primarily ‘complaint’ and ‘(the act of) complaining’ in Modern Spanish, though it can also mean ‘moan, groan (from pain)’, for as we saw, the verb quejarse, from which the noun queja descends, also has the meanings ‘to moan, groan’ in addition to the main meaning, which is ‘to complain’.

Old Spanish had a masculine quexo [ˈke.ʃo] in addition to feminine quexa [ˈke.ʃa] from which modern queja developed, with the same meaning. But note that Old Sp. quexo/quexa meant something a bit different from what its descendant queja means today, just like the meaning of modern quejarse is different from the meaning the source-verb quexar had (see above). The old meaning of quexo/a was something like ‘affliction, grief, anguish, distress, pressure, ailment, predicament, etc.’. One common expression with this noun (collocation) is no tener queja de alguien ‘to have no complaints about somebody’, as in De ella no tengo queja ‘I have no complaints about her’. Another expression is presentar/interponer una queja ‘to lodge/register/file a (formal) complaint’.

There were other nouns derived from the verb quexar in Old Spanish that referred to the act of complaining/moaning, namely quexedat and quexumbre (DCECH). The noun quexedat, which would have turned into Modern Spanish quejedad, with the suffix ‑dad, seems to have all but disappeared and it is not to be found in any Spanish dictionary. The noun quejumbre, formed with the suffix ‑(d)umbre, is actually still found in Spanish dictionaries, though it is very rare in Modern Spanish. The DLE defines it as ‘frequent and mostly unwarranted complaining’ (DLE).[1] Most Spanish-English dictionaries do not have the word quejumbre, which is not surprising since it is so rare. One that does is the Granada University Spanish-English Dictionary, which translates it as kvetch, pronunced [ˈkvɛʧ] or [kə.ˈvɛʧ], a word (verb and noun) that English has borrowed from Yiddish kvetshn ‘to squeeze, complain’, from Middle High German quetzen or quetschen ‘to squeeze’.

It seems that in Honduras and perhaps other parts of Central America, one hears the word quejazón, with a meaning similar to that of quejumbre, namely ‘frequent complaints, groan, wine’ (Wkt). This word, however, cannot be found in any of the major Spanish dictionaries, including the Academies’ one (DLE) or María Moliner’s (MM). It is obviously derived by addition of the ending ‑azón, ultimately derived from Lat. ‑ā‑t‑ĭōn‑em, used to derived nouns from verbs typically with a sense of intense action of the verb (Sp. ‑azón is a patrimonial variant of the semi-learned suffix ‑ación, as in comparación, from comparar). This suffix is found in words such as hinchazón ‘swelling’, from hinchar ‘to swell’; picazón ‘itch, irritation’, from picar ‘to itch’; and ligazón ‘link, bond, connection’ from ligar ‘to tie, bind’.



[1] The original says: quejumbreQueja frecuente y por lo común sin gran motivo’ (DLE). This suffix was originally ‑(i)tumbre in Old Spanish (cf. costumbre ‘custom’, from Vulgar Lat. *cōnsuētūmen/*costūmen, from Lat. cōnsuētūdĭnem, accusative form of cōnsuētūdō ‘custom, habit’, a noun derived from the rare verb suēscĕreintrans. to become used or accustomed to; trans. to accustom, habituate’), from an earlier Vulgar Latin *‑tumne, from *‑tumine, from Lat. ‑tū‑d‑ĭnem, the accusative form of the ending ‑tū‑d‑ō. This Spanish suffix is a doublet of the learned suffix ‑itud, e.g. altitud ‘height, altitude’, amplitud ‘width, spaciousness, aplitude, etc.’, and it is found in only a few words inherited from Vulgar Latin: certidumbre ‘certainty’, from cierto/a ‘true’ (more common: incertidumbre ‘uncertainty’); mansedumbre ‘meekness, docility, tameness’, from manso/a ‘tame, docile’; muchedumbre ‘crowd’, from mucho/a ‘much’; and servidumbre ‘servitude’, from siervo ‘serf, slave’. One word was formed in Spanish by analogy with these words, namely pesadumbre ‘grief, sorrow’, from the noun pesar ‘sorrow, regret, etc.’, derived from the homonymous verb pesar ‘to be heavy; to weigh’.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 11

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

This is Part 11. Go to Part 1

Lat. quăssāre and its derivates

Sp. aquejar

Let us look now at the verb aquejar ‘to afflict, ail’, which was mentioned earlier. This verb was presumably derived from quexar in Old Spanish by addition of the prefix a‑, which descends from either Latin prefix ad‑ ‘to’ or ab‑ ‘off, from’. This a‑ was mostly used in Old Spanish as a rather meaningless prefix that was added to adjectives and nouns to form so-called parasynthetic verbs, e.g. amueblar ‘to furnish’ from the noun mueble ‘piece of furniture’, or agrandar ‘to enlarge’ from the adjective grande ‘large’ (cf. Part I, Chapter 5). However, this prefix was also on occasion added to verbs in Old Spanish to form mostly synonymous variants of these verbs, some of which have disappeared from the language, but others have remained to this day as dialectal variants with a meaning that is more or less close to the meaning of the variants without the prefix a‑. For example, from bajar intrans. to go down; trans. to lower’, the verb abajar was created, which is rare in the standard language today but which is still found in dictionaries such as María Moliner’s, where we learn that it is a non-standard (‘popular’) variant of transitive and intransitive bajar. The DLE tells us that abajar is primarily transitive, but that it can also be used as transitive and it adds that it has a specialized meaning in veterinary science, namely ‘to cut down the hooves of horses a great deal’.[1] Another example is acallar, which is now a transitive verb meaning ‘to silence, hush, drown out, mute’, which is related to intransitive callar ‘to be/keep quiet, shut up’. The verb acallar is now equivalent to hacer callar, but originally it could be used intransitively as synonymous with callar. The verb atestiguar ‘to testify’ could be seen as another example of this phenomenon since it coexisted with testiguar in Old Spanish, which is now obsolete. However, in this case both verbs are derived from a noun, namely testigo ‘witness’, not necessarily from a verb. The same thing can be said of the pair profetizaraprofetizar ‘to prophesy’, only the former of which is in use today (dictionaries do not even mention aprofetizar), since they are both derived from the noun profeta ‘prophet’. But it is even possible that the verb aquejar was not derived from the verb quejar at all, but rather from the noun queja, which now means ‘complaint’, that was derived from the verb quejar, as we will see in the next section.

So, presumably, aquejar started off as a variant of quejar, but eventually their meanings changed, first a little and then more, as quejar came to be used only as the pronominal verb quejarse, with a somewhat different meaning from the one it had had a century earlier. DCEH mentions that this verb is attested already in 1270, as aquexar, and that it has maintained its etymological meaning, unlike quexar. It is not so clear, however, that this verb has maintained its meaning so well through the centuries. Note that of the five senses in María Moliner’s dictionary for aquejar, four are said to be obsolete today, with the only sense in use today being ‘for an illness or malady to affect someone’ (MM).[2] And of the five senses given for this verb in the Academy’s DLE dictionary, three are said to be obsolete (ant.). The two senses that are not obsolete in the DLE are: (1) ‘to distress, afflict, fatigue’, and (2) ‘said of a disease, a vice, a defect, etc.: to affect someone or something, to cause them harm’ (DLE).[3]  The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (DPD) defines this verb’s single meaning as ‘to affect or cause harm/injury’, without mentioning the fact that this verb is typically used with the sense of maladies or illnesses causing the harm.[4]

Interestingly, there are conflicting opinions as to whether the secondary complement of this verb (not the subject) is a direct object or an indirect object. The Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de la lengua española (DDDLE) tells us that Sp. aquejar works just like the verb gustar and other verbs like it not only in that the subject typically follows the verb, but also in that the person affected is coded as an indirect object, as in aquejar un dolor A una parte del cuerpo ‘for pain to affect a part of the body’. Thus, the third person pronoun to be used with aquejar according to this dictionary is le(s), as in Le aqueja una enfermedad crónica [un fuerte dolor de cabeza, una grave preocupación] ‘He ails from a chronic illness [a strong headache, a serious worry]’ (María Moliner). Some Spanish-English dictionaries agree with this, such as Advanced Español-Inglés VOX, which gives the following example: Le aqueja una enfermedad desconocida ‘He is suffering from an unknown illness’ (AEIV). The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (DPD), on the other hand, takes the position that the affected entity is a direct object, not an indirect object, and thus the preposition a is not needed unless it is a personal a, and the appropriate third person pronouns are lo(s)/la(s). Strangely enough, however, the DPD also says that the ‘personal a’ is typically used even if the object is not a person, a fact that would seem to indicate that we are dealing with an indirect object and not a direct object.[5] The Oxford Spanish-English Dictionary agrees with the analysis that the object is a direct object, cf. the example Lo aqueja un fuerte dolor de espalda ‘He is suffering from severe back pain’ (OSD). It would seem that we are dealing here with a dialectal difference, which for some reason has gone unacknowledged by the language authorities.

Go to part 12 (coming soon)



[1] The original says: ‘Cortar mucho del casco de las caballerías’ (DLE).

[2] The original says: ‘Afectar a ↘alguien un padecimiento o una enfermedad’ (MM).

[3] The original says: ‘Acongojar, afligir, fatigar’, and ‘Dicho de una enfermedad, de un vicio, de un defecto, etc.: Afectar a alguien o algo, causarles daño’ (DLE).

[4] The original says: ‘Afectar o causar daño’ (DPD).

[5] The original says: ‘El complemento directo de cosa puede ir opcionalmente precedido de a…, siendo mayoritaria la presencia de la preposición: «Es muy fácil entender un mal que aqueje al cuerpo» (Britton Siglo [Pan. 1995]); «Los problemas que aquejan [...] el mundo musical de nuestro país» (Melo Notas [Méx. 1990])’

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 16

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook  Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Span...