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Nahuatl Loan Words

I have been looking into indigenous languages lately, so today I’m bringing you some Nahuatl loan words that you probably use every day. But first things first:

  • In Nahuatl, <tl> is pronounced /t͡ɬ/ 1.
  • It belongs to the Uto-Aztecan language family 2.
  • Nahuatl literally translates as “clear or pleasant sound”.
  • Nahuatl used pictographs and ideographs, and later on acquired the Latin script, which was used to record a large amount of poetry, prose, administrative and legal documents.
  • Nowadays Nahuan languages are spoken by about 1.5 million people, most of whom live in central Mexico, and the different varieties are not always mutually intelligible.

The Spanish language has tons of words of Nahuan origin, and some of them made it into English through a process of secondary borrowing. Let’s take a look:Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, nahuatl, loan words, indigenous languages

Tomato was borrowed from the Spanish tomate in 17th century. It’s a compound of tomohuac (swelling, fatness)  and atl (water), used to refer to spherical fruits or berries with many seeds and watery pulps.Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, nahuatl, loan words, indigenous languages

Avocado was borrowed from the Spanish aguacate in the 17th century. Popular opinion suggests that ahuacatl means testicle due to the the shape of avocados. Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, nahuatl, loan words, indigenous languages

Jalapeno was borrowed from the Spanish jalapeño in the 20th century. This type of pepper is native to the Mexican municipality of Jalapa, named after the Aztec Xalapan. The latter is a compound of xalli (sand), atl (water) and pan (place).Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, nahuatl, loan words, indigenous languages

Chili 3, the loan word for spicy peppers, was introduced in the 17th century. By the way, there are a few theories that explain the etymology of the toponym Chile, none of which is related to the spicy condiment. Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, nahuatl, loan words, indigenous languages

Xocoatl was introduced into Spanish and French in the 17th century. It’s a compound made of xococ (bitter) and atl (water), and it originally referred to the drink made of water and cacao seeds.

That’s all for now! If you are into linguistic curiosities, check out more illustrated articles here.

Virelangues · French Tongue Twisters

This week, French gets its turn with an illustrated collection of tongue twisters or virelangues.

Tongue twisters are somewhat humorous phrases that rely on alliteration 4, rapid alternation between similar but distinct phonemes 2, and other phonetic devices that make them fairly difficult to articulate, even for native speakers.

Due to their phonetic complexity, tongue twisters are a fun way to train your ear and pronunciation in foreign languages. They can help you differentiate minimal pairs, train muscle placement and develop clearer speech patterns.

Thanks to my friend François, you can listen to the pronunciation of each virelangue. Just click on the audio track below each illustration. Allons-y!

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, French tongue twisters, virelangues, Zungenbrecher, trabalenguas

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, French tongue twisters, virelangues, Zungenbrecher, trabalenguas

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, French tongue twisters, virelangues, Zungenbrecher, trabalenguas

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, French tongue twisters, virelangues, Zungenbrecher, trabalenguas

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, French tongue twisters, virelangues, Zungenbrecher, trabalenguas

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, French tongue twisters, virelangues, Zungenbrecher, trabalenguas

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, French tongue twisters, virelangues, Zungenbrecher, trabalenguas

 

C’est fini! Do you have a favorite virelangue, or maybe one that is impossible to pronounce? Do you know more tongue twisters? Leave me a comment!

Spanish-Italian False Friends

A few months ago I started learning Italian. Why not? Learning a language that is so close to your own has a ton of perks. It can also be a recipe for fun misunderstandings, so here’s an illustrated collection of Spanish-Italian false friends.

These false friends have the exact same written form in both languages, but different meanings in Spanish (left column) and Italian (right column). The last one is definitely my favorite!

Expat Gone Foreign, language comics, foreign language learning, Spanish Italian False Friends, español, italiano, falsos amigos

Do you know other false friends? Leave me a comment!

#ilmioviaggiolinguistico

Beautiful Finnish Words

The world is full of magical things, from bewildering nature cycles to human traits that we perceive but can’t really put a name to. Look no further, for the Finnish language has a wondrous array of untranslatable, beautiful words that capture the spirit and worldview of the land of a thousand lakes.

Aloitetaan!

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomiruska (n.)

The transformation of tree leaves and vegetation into different shades of yellow, red, auburn and purple that occur during autumn.

This enthralling scenery can be witnessed throughout Finland during autumn, but the landscape becomes more breathtaking further north, where areas are less populated and forests grow denser. Ruska comes from the Northern Sami ruškat (brown).

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomitalkoot (n.)

Traditional form of neighborhood gathering to assist with a major task, such as harvesting, building houses or cleaning garbage.

Talkoot fosters a strong sense of community and volunteers usually have a soup dish and alcoholic beverages together after completing the task.

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomikaamos (n.)

Period of the year north of the Arctic Circle 3 in which the Sun does not rise over the horizon.

Although this period of darkness can last up to two months in the northernmost regions of the Arctic Circle, it is rarely pitch black in Finland because the Sun still rises timidly above the horizon, even during winter solstice. This phenomenon gives way to the blue twilight in regions like Lapland, where the darkness takes different shades of blue, violet and purple, reflected on the snow white ground.

Its summer solstice counterpart is the yötön yö (nightless night, known as the midnight sun).

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomisisu (n.)

The stoic determination, brave resilience and tenacious resoluteness shown in the face of adversity, even in situations where success is against the odds. Sisu is a word that Finns use to describe their national character 2.

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomikantohanki (n.)

Thick layer of snow that is solid enough to support a person’s weight without breaking.

By the end of the winter, the sun starts raising again above the horizon. It melts the top of the snow, creating an even layer of ice. For this reason, kantohanki is associated with the beginning of the spring.

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Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomirevontulet (n.)

Northern lights.

Finland is not the only country where the aurora can be spotted, but “fox’s fires” 3 is a very poetic word to describe them. According to an ancient Finnish folk tale, an Arctic magical fox would sweep its tail and cast the snow up high, creating the fire-looking shapes in the sky.

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Revontulet is one of the first Finnish words that I learnt and it’s still my favorite. What about you? Do you have a special, beautiful word that is not present in other languages?

If you liked this article, discover more language curiosities with Poronkusema & the Finnish Linguistic Landscape as well as cultural aspects of Finland in Finns & Interpersonal Interactions.

Näkemiin!