Going loony over luna

Continuing the theme of the last four posts, all of which dealt with words derived from Latin luna ‘moon,’ today I’ll note that astronomy has coined the term lunación/lunation for ‘the period between one full moon and the next.’ Spanish and English use the adjective lunar to mean ‘having to do with the moon,’ as when astronauts first made a lunar landing in 1969. In addition, apparently based on the shape of the moon,  Spanish came to use lunar as a noun meaning ‘a beauty spot, a mole,’ and then more generally ‘a defect’ and even ‘a stain on one’s character.’

It’s fair to say that one big stain on a person’s character is insanity. In ancient times, and even today, there has been a belief that the moon, especially the full moon, can cause people to go mad. Because of that belief, someone who is crazy came to be called a lunático/lunatic. The colloquial English loony ‘crazy’ may be a simplified version of lunatic. There’s also the possibility that loony is from, or at least influenced by, the loon that is a type of bird, as when English speakers say that someone is “as crazy as a loon.”

And with that, I’d like to put an end to the lunacy of having five posts in a row relating to the same word. It’s time for an eclipse, and the next entry will be about something different.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    May 21, 2017 @ 13:21:48

    Ah.. a search for ‘crazy, idiot and fool’ brought me here, and it will be fun to go back and view the posts that lead up to this one…

    I am here perusing your archives because this morning I presented ‘the Muir Tree’ to my host family where i have been ‘camping’ for the past month here in Jama… The painting of the Palo Santo tree was first presented, and they loved it, all proper and handsome in its just-painted mat and frame. Then I showed the unframed Muir Tree, starting first with its antlers and slowly rolling the canvas down down to reveal its very strange face and buttressed trunk. I handed an English/Spanish version of the Muir quotation as three generations pondered the words and then looked at the painting again…

    I pointed to the word, ‘Tonto’ and asked if ‘Idiota’ might work better.

    For the next ten minutes or more, we had a very entertaining discussion about those words. “What is the difference between idiota and tonto?”

    One hard-working 40-year old described ‘idiota’ as his very-serious, artistic and also very-hard working brother: ‘when he is working behind the bar of the restaurant, ” Brother looked at him with this, ‘why would you say that about me? expression.’ Other brother said, “He’ always serious… takes care of business.. without emotion.’ I said that idiot in English would be like taking a glass to the nearby river and drinking the water..

    Of course I thought of you.. perhaps in the future you can expand on crazy/idiot/and fool!

    Thanks for listening!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      May 22, 2017 @ 05:11:46

      And thanks for thinking of me. My recollection from Honduras so long ago is that idiota is a stronger word than tonto, and therefore more of an insult. I also remember reading during my teenage years that psychologists use (or at least once used) the words in this order of increasing mental disability: moron, imbecile, idiot.

      I like the way you unveiled your painting from the top downward, keeping them in suspense for a little bit.


  2. Trackback: lunicide | Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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