finde y duende

For several days in March of 2011 this column dealt with words related to Spanish fin ‘end,’ including finanzas, finical, and finisecular. I later came across another word, finde, which Spanish-language Wikipedia explains is ‘una forma abreviada e informal de decir fin de semana.’ So in informal Spanish a finde is ‘a weekend.’

In English, a sentence is something that we aren’t surprised to find a preposition at the end of. That’s the case in the previous sentence, though the placement of of at the end belies the name preposition, which literally designates a word that is pre-posed, i.e. placed before another word or words. English is also not averse to using a “preposition” as the final element in a noun phrase, as in a lean-to, a brush-off, and a take-over. That construction is rare in Spanish, but finde is obviously one example, even if it’s recent and informal. Another example, and one with a centuries-old pedigree, is duende. The word originated as the phrase duen de casa, which is to say dueño de [la] casa, or ‘master of the household.’ Eventually Spanish speakers dropped the casa, and the result was duende. The Diccionario de la Real Academia Española gives as its primary definition of duende an ‘espíritu fantástico del que se dice que habita en algunas casas y que travesea, causando en ellas trastorno y estruendo. Aparece con figura de viejo o de niño en las narraciones tradicionales.’ In other words, a duende is ‘a type of mischievous elf, fairy, or goblin associated with a household.’

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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