The previous posting pointed out that the name of the dessert called tiramisú/tiramisu is actually an Italian imperative meaning ‘pull me up’ or ‘pick me up.’ Spanish has its own strength-giving command in tentempié, which we can analyze as ten + te + en + pie, literally ‘keep yourself on your feet.’ Spanish uses this four-words-rolled-into-one noun to mean ‘a snack,’ which is more general than the specific dessert called tiramisú/tiramisu. As an example of usage, take this sentence from the 1903 Mexican book La intervención y el imperio (1861-1867), by Victoriano Salado Álvarez:

Or, jumping ahead a century, take these words from a 2005 ad for a tropical fruit drink: “La piña y el toque exótico del mango ofrecen un tentempié ideal para ser consumido en cualquier momento del día.”

Someone who responded to a query about tentempié on spanishdict.com wrote: “It is a charming word we all recognize, but we don’t use often. It is not just any snack, but a little snack that you have between meals to keep you going. To be precise, ‘to keep you going while you stand’.”

As for the four Spanish components ten + te + en + pie, English has relatives of them all. In the same family as Spanish tener ‘to have, hold, keep’ are English verbs like contain and detain that trace back through Old French to Latin. In an early posting to this blog I looked at Spanish te and its archaic English cognate thee. Native English in is the same as the Latin in that became Spanish en. Finally, native English foot is a cognate of the Latin ped- that is now Spanish pie.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: tentetieso « Spanish-English Word Connections

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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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