Siglo de Oro writer Mateo Alemán was Spanish, and politician Miguel Alemán rose to be president of Mexico, yet alemán in Spanish means ‘German,’ which is the translational truth, and closer to the etymological one as well. Spanish acquired alemán from Latin Alemannus, the singular of Alemanni, which was how the Romans Latinized the name of a certain Germanic tribe. With a flash of insight, all men and women who speak English, which is after all a Germanic language, may see that the members of the ancient Alemanni called themselves straightforwardly ‘all men,’ (where men had the general sense ‘people,’ as opposed to the narrower sense ‘male human beings’). Similarly, the normandos/Normans are ‘north men,’ people who lived and still live in the north of what is now France, in the region therefore called Normandía/Normandy.
©2010 Steven Schwartzman