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). 

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