Thursday July 20, 2006

Two Word Moments

In an early post on this blog, I described what I called "a word moment of the second kind"—suddenly realizing the etymology of a word you've used many times before.  In the last couple of days I had two of these in rapid succession.  Details after the jump.


In English a bodega is, more or less, a little grocery store in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood.  (Don't ask me how Spanish-speaking the neighborhood or store has to be to qualify—that's a whole 'nother post I'm not qualified to write.)  It's a loan word from Spanish, obviously, but I'd never stopped to wonder about its etymology.  This summer The Wife and I are taking a German intensive class to prepare for this Autumn's trip to the Big D, and the other day in class we were learning about shopping.  I could have sworn the teacher, who's very good about speaking to us entirely in German, kept mentioning the word bodega, but when I looked in the book at the list of vocabulary we were working on, I didn't see it.  I figured that German had just borrowed the same word from Spanish—no big deal.  Then I happened to be looking right at the German word she was pronouncing just as she said bodega again: Apotheke, which is pronounced [a.pʰo.tʰe.kʰə], more or less.

Yup, the word bodega is cognate with apothecary.  I had no idea.  This was sort of a reverse-double-flip word moment: realizing the etymology of a Spanish word that's been borrowed by English because the modern German pronunciation of it happens to be more similar to Spanish (a Romance language) than to its cognate in English (another West Germanic language).


I'm not sure how the pronunciation of this word varies across the English-speaking world, but I (a West Coast American speaker) have always heard either [tʰʌr.koiz] or [tʰʌr.kwoiz].  Today I was listening to story on the radio (the BBC, I think, but they don't have show archives on their website—tsk, tsk) about the opening of an Islamic Art exhibit somewhere.  During the story, one of the people being interviewed pronounced turquoise a bit more like the French word it's borrowed from: [tʌr.kwaz].

Oh.  How did I never notice that the word turquoise means Turkish?  I guess I've always associated it with the American Southwest, which doesn't have much to do with Anatolia.  And why does it mean that, anyway?  According to the Wikipedia article about turquoise, it's probably based on a misconception—turquoise was traded through Turkey, so it came to be known in Europe as pierre turquoise, 'Turkish stone'.

Huh.  Live and learn.

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In Mexico, at least, the word "bodega" seems to be closer to its etymological roots in Latin, inasmuch as "bodega" is can also mean the place in a house such as a cellar where you store stuff. In one of my dictionaries, it's also listed as being used in a nautical sense to mean the hold of a ship. In German, AFAIK, Apotheke is limited to the sense of what the Brits call "druggist."

What I don't understand is how Southwest natives learned Turkish, haha.

Posted by: mike at Jul 20, 2006 9:12:15 AM

Er, what the Brits call a "chemist." Sorry. Second cup o' coffee safely in hand now ...

Posted by: mike at Jul 20, 2006 9:34:45 AM

Interestingly -- to me at least -- is that in Danish "en bodega" is more or less a pub. And not the sort of fancy place youngsters'd go. More of a smoky, dark, old-people's kind of place -- those are my personal connotations, I'll admit. The pharmacy (sorry as a bona fide chemist I can't make self use that word) is "et apotek" just as in German.

Posted by: Sili at Jul 20, 2006 9:56:36 AM

In Spain, a bodega is a winery, and occasionally a restaurant/bar-ish sort of place that specializes in wines. It's also the wine cellar, if I recall. And I can't recall ever having seen the word used in a non-wine context in either Spain or Argentina. I've generally seen almacén for those little grocery stores, although in Spain they're often called the "chino" based on the perceived nationality of their owners.

Posted by: Anna Marie at Jul 20, 2006 6:34:23 PM

I just saw last night on a show- Jeopardy- about turquoise, and within the past week I had read the Turkey connection. Still, the SW US connection is so strong for me that even though I had read a few months ago about the stone in Persia, I still did not make a connection to French... what's the word for dorking out on etymology when it slaps you straight in the face and you still ignore it?

btw, I surfed over here based on your "Song for the Siren" post... I had heard the TMC version in a mix and googled the lyrics... excellent post, that.


Posted by: brewdog at Jul 21, 2006 10:09:46 AM