Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sp. olvidar and Eng. oblivion, Part 3

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



Words derived from Sp. olvidar: olvidadizo/a and olvido

Latin derived a few words from the verb oblīvīscī, which is the ultimate source of Sp. olvidar, as we have seen. These Latin words were the following:

  • oblīvĭo - oblīvĭōnis (oblīv‑+-ĭōn‑, classical Latin) ‘the/an act of forgetting, forgetfulness; the state of being forgotten, oblivion; an amnesty’; cf. Eng. oblivion, It. oblivione
  • oblīvĭum ‘forgetfulness, oblivion’ (cf. It. oblio)
  • oblīvĭālis ‘that causes forgetfulness, oblivious (post-classical Latin)’
  • oblīvĭōsus (oblīvĭ‑um+‎-ōs‑us) ‘that easily forgets, forgetful, oblivious (rare but class.)’
  • oblīvĭus ‘sunk into oblivion, forgotten’

Interestingly, none of these words have been passed on to Spanish, either as patrimonial words or as later borrowings. As we can see above, English has borrowed the adjective oblivious (from oblīvĭōsus) and the noun oblivion (from oblīvĭo - oblīvĭōnis), but Spanish did not. We will return to these English words that are connected to Sp. olvidar later in the chapter, after we look at a couple of Spanish words that are related to the verb olvidar.

There are a couple of words derived from the verb olvidar in Spanish. They do not descend from ancestral Latin words, but were rather created in Spanish out of the verb. One is the adjective olvidadizo/a ‘forgetful’, as in Juana es muy olvidadiza ‘Juana is very forgetful’. This adjective is first attested in writing in the late 14th century. There were two alternative ways to express this meaning in Old Spanish, namely olvidadero/a and olvidoso/a, both of which were rare and have not survived into Modern Spanish. As is the case with most Spanish adjectives, this one can also be used as a noun, e.g. Juana es una olvidadiza ‘Juana is a forgetful person, Juana is always forgetting things’.

The Spanish suffix ‑izo/a is not a common one. Primarily, it is used to derive adjectives (1) from other adjectives, adding the meaning ‘similarity with’ (cf. Eng. ‑ish), or (2) from past participles of verbs with the meaning ‘tendency towards’ (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.6.2.3).

With adjectives, ‑izo/a is used mostly with color words, so for example, from the adjective rojo/a ‘red’, we get the derived adjective rojizo/a ‘reddish’. Note that this is not a very productive derivational suffix, which is why the word for ‘yellowish’ is amarillento, from amarillo/a ‘yellow’, not *amarillizo/a (with words, the asterisk indicates that it is not an actual word, only a potential word); and the word for ‘greenish’ is verdoso/a, from verde ‘green’, not *verdizo/a. With past participles of verbs, the suffix is even more rare, being used with very few words, one of them being olvidadizo, derived from the participle olvidado/a ‘forgotten’ (olvid‑ad‑o/a) of the verb olvidar ‘ to forget’ (olvid‑ar), giving us the adjective olvidadizo/a ‘forgetful’ (olvid‑ad‑iz‑o/a).[1] Another example of ‑izo/a used with a participle is arrojadizo/a, from the verb arrojar ‘to throw’, found mostly in the phrase arma arrojadiza ‘projectile, missile, throwing weapon’.

The other word derived from the verb olvidar is the noun olvido, first attested in the 13th century, which refers to ‘the act of forgetting’ or ‘the state of being forgotten’. The noun olvido is derived from the stem olvid‑ of the verb olvidar (olvid‑ar) without the addition of a derivational suffix, just by changing the inflectional suffix from the verbal (infinitive) ‑ar to the nominal ‑o, a form of derivation by conversion (cf. Chapter 5, §5.7). A synonym of olvido in Old Spanish was olvidança, which is now obsolete (it would have been spelled *olvidanza in Modern Spanish, had it survived).

Sp. olvido translates into English in different ways depending on the context/sense: ‘oblivion’ (syn. desmemoria), ‘forgetfulness, absent-mindedness’ (syn. descuido), or ‘oversight, lapse (of memory)’ (syn. lapsus) (Advanced Español-Inglés VOX). If olvido refers to ‘a habitual state of forgetting things or being forgotten’, it usually translates as oblivion (see §2.5 below), as in the idiomatic phrases relegar al olvido ‘to cast into/consign to oblivion’, rescatar del olvido ‘to rescue from oblivion’, caer en el olvido ‘to fall/sink into obscurity/oblivion’, and rescatar del olvido ‘to rescue from oblivion’. If it refers merely to a momentary ‘lapse of memory’, it may translate as oversight or lapse (of memory), as in Fue un olvido imperdonable ‘It was an unforgivable oversight’ (Vox).

While discussing the English equivalents of olvidadizo and olvido in the preceding paragraphs, we have seen two words derived from the English verb forget, namely the adjective forgetful (forget‑ful) ‘apt or likely not to remember’ (COED), derived from the verb forget by means of the suffix ‑ful, and the noun forgetfulness, derived from that adjective by means of the suffix ‑ness that creates abstract nouns (forget‑ful‑ness).

The adjective forgetful most commonly translates into Spanish as olvidadizo/a, as we saw, but other possible translations are despistado/a and desmemoriado/a. Sp. despistado can also be equivalent to Eng. absentminded, scatterbrain, confused, and even lost. This adjective is derived from the identical past participle of the verb despistar, which as a transitive verb means ‘to mislead, confuse; to shake off (a pursuer), give the slip’, El ladrón despistó a los policías que lo perseguían ‘The thief gave the slip to the cops that pursued him’. As an intransitive (pronominal, reflexive) verb, despistarse, means ‘to get lost, lose one’s way;  to get confused, get muddled’ (VOX), as in Me despisté y me salí de la carretera ‘I wasn’t paying attention and I went off the road’. As most adjectives derived from past participles, despistado/a can also be used as a noun, so that un despistado or una despistada refers to absent-minded person.

As for desmemoriado/a, it is an adjective containing the root of the noun memoria ‘memory’ (des‑memori‑ad‑o/a) and it also means ‘forgetful, absent-minded’ (and as a noun: ‘forgetful person, absent-minded person’). This adjective is derived from the identical past participle of the verb desmemoriarse ‘to lose one’s memory’, which is quite rare, more so than the adjective desmemoriado.

As for the English abstract noun forgetfulness, it can be translated into Spanish as olvido in some cases, or even tendencia al olvido (GU), a phrase containing the noun olvido (lit. tendency to forgetfulness). However, more common equivalents of Eng. forgetfulness are falta de memoria ‘lit. lack of memory’, mala memoria ‘lit. bad memory’, and even despiste ‘absentmindedness, etc.’, a noun derived from the verb despistar that we just saw, referring to a momentary and brief lapse of memory or, more commonly, attention.

Go to Part 4 (coming soon)


[1] The suffix ‑izo/a can also be added to a few nouns to add the meaning ‘having the quality of’, as in cobrizo/a ‘coppery, copper-colored’ from cobre ‘copper’ and calizo/a ‘limy’ from cal ‘lime’ (caliza can also be a noun, meaning ‘limestone’, derived from piedra caliza lit. ‘limy stone’, by ellipsis of the actual noun (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.10.5). Less commonly, variants of this suffix create nouns adding the general meaning of ‘place’, as in caballeriza ‘stable(s)’ and pasadizo ‘passageway, passage’.


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Sp. olvidar and Eng. oblivion, Part 6

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