corpus

The last post traced the core in English mumblecore to the identically pronounced corps that, like its Spanish cognate cuerpo, has the basic meaning ‘body.’ A narrower meaning that the two languages share is that of ‘a dead body, a cadaver,’ a sense that English regularly began to differentiate in the 1800s with the spelling corpse.

The academic registers of Spanish and English have revived the original Latin corpus that gave rise to Spanish cuerpo and English corps(e); we use corpus for ‘the “body” of a creative person’s [often a writer’s] works,’ and now also more generally for ‘any collection of data.’ In linguistics, for example, a corpus may consist of a set of words, usages, pronunciations, etc.

The Spanish world, being primarily Catholic, uses the capitalized Corpus to mean Corpus Christi Day, when believers celebrate the Eucharist. Americans, even if not Catholic, recognize Latin Corpus Christi, literally ‘body of Christ,’ as a city in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. The name of the city (and its adjacent bay) followed from that of the religious festival. The website of the City of Corpus Christi gives the details: “In 1519, on the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Corpus Christi, Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda discovered a lush semi-tropical bay on what is now the southern coast of Texas. The bay, and the city that later sprung up there, took the name of the feast day celebrating the ‘Body of Christ.'”

In light of the various related words discussed here the last time and today, we can sum up by noting that Spanish has the doublets cuerpo and corpus, while English outdoes it with the triplets corps, corpse, and corpus (and even quadruplets, if we allow the core that corps morphed to in mumblecore).

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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