Cambridge Dictionaries Online confirms that some English speakers have taken to using the French phrase après-ski, or ‘after-ski,’ to designate ‘social activities which take place in the evening at hotels and restaurants in places where people go to ski.’ One of the earliest posts in this column discussed the etymology of esquí/ski, so all that remains is to look at the origin of French après ‘after’ and find connections to Spanish.

French après developed from the Latin phrase ad pressum, whose first word is not only the ancestor of Spanish a but also a cognate of native English at. Latin ad pressum meant literally ‘pressed [close] to,’ but eventually the phrase and its French descendant took on the temporal sense ‘close to in time,’ particularly the time that comes after a specified event or time. The resulting French après ultimately lost its sense of closeness and the word came to mean ‘after’ in a general sense.

That bit of word history is enough for Spanish speakers to recognize that the Latin notion of ‘pressed close together in time’ likewise led to the Spanish a prisa (also written aprisa) that now means ‘quickly, rapidly.’ By itself, prisa functions as a noun meaning ‘haste, hurry, rapidity, speed, urgency,’ which are senses of the longer and clearly related noun apresuramiento; the corresponding Spanish verb is apresurar ‘to hurry along, speed up.’

Though Spanish de prisa (also deprisa) uses a different preposition from a prisa, the two phrases are synonymous. And if you’ll allow me a hurried hop into a neighboring Romance language, I remember my Portuguese teacher in 1965 teaching us the proverb “Depressa e bem, não é quem,” which we can translate into Spanish as “Deprisa y bien, no hay quien.” In other words, there’s no one who can do a thing quickly and well at the same time. While that’s not always true, it often is; the sentiment is the same as the one that English expresses with the saying “Haste makes waste,” which, like the Portuguese proverb, makes its case in rhyme.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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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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