Cognates

Cognates.

Be careful. Sometimes words can fool you. There is no aspirin or anything yummy in this photograph.

Photo0114 B

Janet saw many people mistake the Spanish word ‘embarazada’ for embarrassed. So, they would use it in a sentence or agree that it described their situation. Usually embarrassed is what they were a moment later when they learned that the word really means pregnant.

We were told that in the outer islands of French Polynesia, the Polynesian word for peanut butter was, ‘Skippy’. So, there certainly are a lot of cognates floating around. And cognate probably isn’t the right term when it’s a complete and accurate word borrowed from another language.

Think goodness that so many words do get adopted. It makes it a lot easier for not very linguistically gifted people like myself. Often they are different, but recognizable like taxi in English is taksi in Turkish. Which is not hard to figure out when it’s on a little plastic thing on the top of a bright yellow automobile, parked in a long line of bright yellow automobiles at what is obviously a taxi stand.

Greek was pretty challenging for me. But Janet, ever the linguist, and poster child for diligent, learn to pronounce things written in the Greek alphabet. So she could figure out cognates like φαρμακείο…

That pronounces sort of like ‘pharma key o’, which is not too far removed from the English word pharmacy. Although I think it was more common to see a Greek word that pronounced much like apothecary. But you’d have to ask Janet on that one. And Lord, do I wish I could.

Another time, we were walking through a Greek marina and one of the boats had a name that was definitely Greek to me, but Janet looked at it for a moment and then said, “Oh, it’s Victoria.” Which, I guess, if you knew how to pronounce Greek letters, was really simple. That is a gift I really wish I had. But I think I’ve proven pretty thoroughly that I do not.

Dave

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