The last couple of postings have talked about combining two words to make what Lewis Carroll called a portmanteau word. To yesterday’s example of bronco I’ll gladly now add Spanish cerrojo, which is ‘a bolt, a latch, a bar used to fasten a door.’ Most people, including native Spanish speakers, assume the word is based on cerrar ‘to close,’ but, using a bit of meta-etymology, you can reason that if that were the case I wouldn’t be bringing up cerrojo as an example of a blending of words.

The history of cerrojo seems to have begun with Latin veru, whose meanings included ‘a spit for roasting meat’ and ‘a dart, a javelin.’ From veru the Romans created the diminutive vericulum ‘a small javelin.’ Lewis and Short’s 1879 A Latin Dictionary pointed out that the word was vericulum rather than veruculum, and that pointing out allows us to use meta-etymology once again to conclude that some users of Latin did indeed write veruculum. That form apparently became Vulgar Latin *verruculum, which evolved to Old Spanish verrojo. Because a bolt or bar is used to keep a door closed, Spanish speakers felt a connection to the verb that means ‘to close,’ cerrar, whose -err- conveniently matched the same sequence in verrojo. The blending of cerrar and verrojo led to the modern cerrojo.

In looking for a good quotation to demonstrate the use of cerrojo, I came across a paragraph that uses the word repeatedly. The passage is in a book entitled Colección de obras arábigas de historia y geografía, published by the Real Academia de Historia in Madrid in 1867. Here it is, with the typography and accentuation of that era:

© 2010 Steven Schwartzman

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: turigrino « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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