Monday, July 25, 2016

"Drogar" is a word in Spanish, but "evolver" doesn't exist.

One question that occasionally pops into my head is, "Why is that English word made into a Spanish word?" This normally happens when I stumble across a banally common word that is so obviously from English that it makes me wonder, "Why isn't there a word for this in Spanish?" I then check the RAE to see if it is an officially recognized word, and - if it is - I look to see if there are any handy Spanish synonyms that could have also worked. And when there are, then it makes me think the complementary question of, "Why is this English word not made into a Spanish word?"

Case in point with the word drogar. I knew already that there was the noun droga, and that it means "drug." Interestingly, I also knew that the RAE cited a very different origin for the word droga (Hispanic Arabic) than what is cited as the origin for the word "drug" (Middle French). But okay. Whatever, right? Well, not so quick: the word origin for drogar is that it's from English ("to drug"). *sigh*

But the definition for drogar translates to "to administer a drug" (administrar una droga). And this point would be less irksome to me if Spanish would have the verb bicicletear, which would do the job of the phrase andar en bicicleta, which is the most common way to say, "to bike." Well, no; it's the most common way to say, "ride on a bike," since there is no verb for "to bike" (which is what bicicletear would be, much like drogar is the verb of "to drug," which is the shortened form of the phrase administrar una droga).


Okay, so as long as I continue to be a cyclist, I will admit that this will likely remain a pet peeve of mine. But, as an ecologist, I have to find fault with another verb in Spanish, namely evolucionar, which is the verb of "to evolve." There is no verb, evolver, despite the fact that the following verbs that share the same root all exist: volver, revolver, devolver, envolover, desenvolver, and the list almost certainly goes on.

But it does not include evolver.

No, the word for "to evolve" in Spanish is, evolucionar ("to evolutionate"). And when you go to look up the etymology of evolucionar, you get that it's from evolución (which is like a big, "no duh"). But if you go an look up the etymology of evolución, you find that it comes from the Latin, "evolutio, -ōnis," which is basically what you get with the English entry for "evolution." But if you go to look up the English word, "evolve," you get, "equivalent to ē- + volvere to roll, turn." Ah-hah! "Volvere" looks a lotlike volver, and, indeed, if we look up its etymology, we find that it's from the Latin, "volvĕre."

So the Spanish word volver derives from the Latin "volvere."
The English word "evolve" derives from the Latin "e + volvere."

But Spanish doesn't have the word evolver, even though it has the term devolver. No, the term is stuck as an awkward back-tranformation from the English "evolution" to a verb of that Latin-based word.


But that's language for you, and I'm not the one to make the rules, so as much as I would love that I could write about how fish evolver and talk about how I bicicletear to work, I have to stick understanding that languages evolucionar and let that sink in while I andar en bicicleta on my way home.

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