Listening to a financial television channel this morning, I heard the announcer ask whether the company in question should embark on a certain venture. A common meaning of embark, perhaps now the most common one, is ‘to set out on [a venture], to begin.’ The original sense, which is still current, was ‘to go on board a vessel,’ and in particular ‘to go onto a boat.’ English took the verb from French embarquer, which the American Heritage Dictionary notes probably came from Medieval Latin imbarcare, based on Latin barca ‘a small boat, a barge.’ Spanish also has barca, which retains the Latin meanings, while the masculine barco is ‘a ship, a boat’ in a general sense. Parallel to English embark is Spanish embarcar. Spanish barcada is both ‘a trip that a ship makes’ and ‘a boatload.’ In the Philippines, where ferries are often crowded with passengers, that close company gave barcada the sense ‘a group of people who hang out together, a band of friends’ and then even ‘any one of the people in such a group.’

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


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  1. Trackback: Not rock n’ roll but barcarolle « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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