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Post Escampar and Forastero: A Catalan Connection?
Created by John Eipper on 02/02/20 4:57 AM

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Escampar and Forastero: A Catalan Connection? (Jordi Molins, -Spain, 02/02/20 4:57 am)

John Eipper stated: "Forastero is not all that common [in Spanish], although the great Gabriel García Márquez loves the word, as he does the verb escampar (to stop raining), which I've only seen used in the works of GGM. "

The verb escampar is used more often in Catalan than in Spanish. GGM lived for some time in Barcelona. Could it be he picked up the word here? Or maybe a Catalan influence in Colombia? GGM had Catalan friends in Barranquilla, for example Ramon Vinyes.

I agree the word forastero is rarely used in Spanish, apart from Far West movies. However, in the Balearics, Catalan speakers use the word foraster very often, usually describing either people of the Iberian Peninsula, or people born in the Balearics but not adapted well to the local culture. The usage of foraster is one of the clearest indications a Catalan speaker comes from the Balearics.

JE comments:  Fascinating!  I'm especially grateful for WAIS posts that help me to be better at my day job.  García Márquez lived in Barcelona for eight years in the late 1960s and early '70s.  He had already written One Hundred Years of Solitude by the time he located there, but there is still a sympathetic Catalan character, the bookseller who appears towards the end of the novel.  The librero catalán's catchword is the colorful expletive collons.  The British might say "bollocks."

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  • Escampar and Forastero in Catalan and Spanish (Paul Preston, -UK 02/03/20 3:02 AM)
    Far be it from me to disagree with a Catalan (Jordi Molins) on the frequency of word use in either Catalan or Spanish, but from what it is worth, I have hear both forastero (stranger in the sense of not from around here) and escampar (in the sense of to stop raining) used a lot in Spanish conversation.  Both words form part of my active vocabulary.

    However, in Catalan, I have always heard escampar used, and have used it myself, as meaning to spread or to disperse--e.g. En caure els fulls, estaven escampats pel terra = when the sheaf of papers fell, they were scattered all over the floor.

    JE comments:  Sir Paul Preston introduces a concept worth further exploration:  one's active vocabulary in a non-native language.  I will occasionally throw a forastero into my normal Spanish conversation, but I would have to dig deep to find escampar.  As a matter of fact, until now I assumed that the latter was a Colombianism, like bacano (cool), tener afán (to be in a hurry), and the omnipresent interrogative ¿cómo así?  (This one is tricky, but it more or less equates with "how come.")

    Paul, your Un pueblo traicionado has been on my nightstand for all of 2020, and I am working through it at about ten pages per evening.  Allow me to say that you've written nothing less than the definitive political history of Modern Spain.  Expect my modest contribution, in the form of a review, before the end of February.

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    • Foraster/Forastero, and Escampar (Jordi Molins, -Spain 02/06/20 11:37 AM)
      In light of the responses from Sir Paul Preston and José Ignacio Soler, I sustain my original assertions on the words escampar and forastero:

      On one hand, the Catalan word foraster is used in 94% of occasions in Catalonia, and the Spanish word forastero is used only 6% of the time, as can be seen from the two attached screenshots. Since it is obvious that not 94% of all Google searches in Catalonia are performed in Catalan (probably, the truth is much closer to 6%), it seems clear that the Catalan word foraster is much more used than forastero, as claimed.

      And I think it is unlikely that the Spanish word forastero would be rarely used by Spanish speakers in Catalonia, but used a lot by Spanish speakers elsewhere in Spain, since Spanish speakers in Catalonia are basically indistinguishable from Spanish speakers in other parts of Spain.

      In addition to this, I would say forastero is a "forbidden" word nowadays in Spanish, since it portrays a somewhat negative connotation towards foreigners ("you are not one of us"). Instead, in Catalan foraster is such a common word (at least, in the Balearics) that this negative connotation has not been able to prevent its usage.

      About escampar, I have not been able to do the same Google search exercise, since escampar is written the same way in Spanish and in Catalan. However, I firmly stand on my assertion that "the verb escampar is used more often in Catalan than in Spanish." In fact, Sir Paul Preston gives the main reason why is that so: escampar is used in Catalan with the connotation of "physically spreading something." Instead, in Spanish the main meaning of the word is "to stop raining." In fact, in Catalan we also have this meaning, in the expression "escampar la pluja."

      JE comments:  Jordi, could you give us a tutorial on what type of Google search you performed?  Is there a way to do a "concordance" and find percentages, such as, for example, the use of "pop" vs "soda" in different regions of the US?  One quandary:  the number of Google searches of a given word doesn't necessarily mean the word is used more often in daily speech.  Possibly it's the other way around:  why search a word you already use constantly?

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      • Raining Cats and Dogs (Enrique Torner, USA 02/08/20 4:01 AM)
        I have always loved etymology, and it seems WAIS does too, from all the exchanged posts regarding the Spanish word "forastero." As a translator and linguist at heart, proverbs have always fascinated me and offered challenging problems and questions.

        I am currently teaching a course on translation, focused on English-Spanish translations (both directions), and this week we tackled the subject of how to translate proverbs. An English one showed up: "It's raining cats and dogs." Spanish translation?... "Está lloviendo a cántaros," which literally means "It's raining pitchers or jugs." The image is clear: imagine somebody pouring a huge jug of water all over you from a balcony just while you are walking under it! But raining cats and dogs? I can't imagine cats and dogs falling off of the sky! So I decided to ask around: students and faculty. Nobody could tell me why they say that in English!

        So I decided to do some research online and found out that we don't really know the origin of the expression, but that there are several hypotheses: Norwegian mythology, classical Greek and Roman mythology, medieval superstitions, or dead animals being found on the streets of England after a bad thunderstorm. The first time an expression like that was used was in 1651. In a collection of poems titled Olor Iscanus, written by British poet Henry Vaughan, he referred to a roof that was secure against "dogs and cats rained in shower." One year later, Richard Brome, an English playwright, wrote in his comedy City Witt, "It shall rain dogs and polecats. (Polecats are related to the weasel and were common in Great Britain through the end of the nineteenth century.)" (https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/item/what-is-the-origin-of-the-phrase-its-raining-cats-and-dogs/ ).

        However, the first time the modern version of the expression was recorded was in Jonathan Swift's A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation in 1738: "I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs" (http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-rai1.htm ). The most dramatic interpretation I found it to be the following: "in olden times, homes had thatched roofs in which domestic animals such as cats and dogs would like to hide. In heavy rain, the animals would either be washed out of the thatch, or rapidly abandon it for better shelter, so it would seem to be raining cats and dogs." (http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-rai1.htm ).

        Since it was my curiosity that led me to this discovery (plus the fact that the proverb was in the textbook I use), another English saying came to my mind: "Curiosity killed the cat." Origin?... English playwright Ben Johnson's Every Man in His Humour, 1598:

        "Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care'll kill a Cat, up-tails all, and a Louse for the Hangman." (https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/curiosity-killed-the-cat.html )

        Did I pique your curiosity? I think etymology is fascinating!

        JE comments:  Young Gustavus Felinus, WAIS Assistant Editor, looks over my shoulder in horror!  He urges WAISers to reject proverbs involving violence against his kind.  His absolute least favorite:  There is more than one way to skin a cat.  Yikes.  I remind him that while he has nine lives in the Anglophone world, in Spanish he's limited to seven.

        Enrique, a professional question:  how do you deal with the irresistible temptation for students to use Google Translate in their assignments?  It used to be painfully obvious when students cheated, but machine translation is getting better and better.  There are still some tell-tale markers, such as any appearance of the auxiliary verb "soler" (with apologies to our colleague José Ignacio Soler).  Any time you enter "used to X" or "tends to X" or similar into the program, it spews out some version of "soler."  It's a construction no English speaker studying Spanish comes up with naturally.  Bizarre and illogical shifts in pronouns, from "you" to "she" to "they," are also clear giveaways.

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        • Translation Websites and Academic Honesty (Enrique Torner, USA 02/09/20 3:52 AM)

          Our dear editor asked me how I deal with students' temptation to use Google Translate in their assignments.

          Actually, one of the first warnings I give them is that Google Translate is one of the worst free online translators out there, and advise them to avoid it. We actually go over the different translating tools there are online, and we discuss their efficiency. However, no free online translation website--no matter how good--can withstand the complexities of translating a complicated text. There are some translation websites that charge fees (like Trados or Proz, two that professional translators like to use), and they are better, but they are still short of perfect.

          Since WAISers are such polyglots, I bet most of you have used free online translation sites, so I will provide you with my recommendations:

          Reverso Context: this site offers a translation of sentences or phrases in context, and offers translation from and to the following languages: Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Turkish, and, of course, English.

          I have used it to translate from English into Spanish and vice-versa, as well as with Italian, French, and German. In my opinion, it is pretty good. Here is their website:


          Another website that I find even better is Systran Translate, and it translates from and to about 40 languages:


          This is an excellent translating tool, and I recommend it.

          Finally, to answer John's question, when I assign translations to students as homework, they already know I know the tools out there, and I allow them to use them judiciously. In class, we compare and discuss text translations sentence by sentence, and I can assure you that, even with all those tools out there for them to use, they still come up with funny translations! When it's time for testing in class, no computers are allowed. However, even for online translation courses, or any online course, there is a tool that allows the teacher to prevent students from opening another browser. Let's say, however, that they use another computer or a cell phone: instructors, very soon in the semester, know their students' capabilities and can "smell a rat" when the students' product is too good to be true. In my case, I know my students and I know the tools, and I can easily find out, not only if they cheated, but even the tool they used.

          JE commente:  You've phrased it perfectly, Enrique:  rat-smelling quickly becomes a survival skill for teachers.  Reverso Context claims to use its "natural language search engine" to perform translations.  I understand this to mean that instead of attacking the vocabulary and syntax of the original text, it searches for existing content on the web.  In other words, it doesn't translate per se, but rather identifies text that has already been translated.  This must be what the company means by "reverso."

          I just tried yesterday's example "it's raining cats and dogs," and got "llover a cántaros."  Impressive.

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          • Attorney Generals and Legislative Bills: The Machine Translator's Ultimate Challenge (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece 02/10/20 3:02 AM)
            I tried Systran Translate on English to Greek using a phrase which included some common mistranslations by my graduate students who read English books in my US politics and government course.

            Some students mistake a legislative bill for the kind of bill you get in restaurants. Attorney General is sometimes mistranslated as a European-style career prosecutor, as opposed to the US equivalent of a European home secretary or minister of justice. Cause as in "purpose" is sometimes confused with cause as in causal factor. This was my sentence:

            The attorney general's bill promotes his cause.

            The translation got only the attorney general wrong.

            JE comments:  I tried Harry Papasotiriou's example for "my" language, Spanish, and Systran nailed it.  Interestingly, Google Translate came up with the exact same result.  The only bump in the road was Attorney General, which is alternately translated as Fiscal General or Procurador General, depending on the country.

            Great to hear from you, Harry!  Tell us, what are some of the challenges and strategies of teaching US politics and government in Athens?  For starters, how long does it take to explain the Electoral College?  I am always interested in "war stories" from the classroom.

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          • Machine Translators and German (Patrick Mears, -Germany 02/10/20 3:51 AM)
            Just a few, brief comments on Reverso as a translating tool. (See Enrique Torner, February 9th.)

            I use it solely (i) for translating my English essays for my German class into German, and (ii) for conjugations of German verbs. I am generally happy with its final product, but I need to check the grammatical structure of that product and also the precise definition of German words that I do not feel comfortable about. When a German verb has more than one well-established and clear meaning and when the meaning greatly varies based on its use in a sentence, I often use leo.org or a traditional English-German dictionary to resolve questions and doubts.

            Sometimes after using these additional tools, I may still have doubts about the use of a verb in a particular context, and then I will ask my wife, Cornelia, to assist in solving the problem. In this final stage, the issue often involves and the issue of what is the best usage among competing phrases or words, and which usage is more common among educated Germans. The need for such an extended analysis that I just went through does not happen often, but on the other hand, it is not rare.

            The one nice thing about using Reverso is that it cuts down the time I spend in the initial stages of drafting, but nevertheless forces me to go through the learning process, viz., Reverso does not provide an easy and quick fix, and I like that. Another caution that I have concerning Reverso, at least insofar as its German translation services are concerned, is that when I use it for a prolonged period, Reverso's reliability often drops precipitously. In these cases, I often notice right away obvious spelling, grammar and other mistakes upon reading its translated product.

            JE comments:  Pat Mears has clearly identified the final step of machine translation:  iii) fix the mistakes.  This is the point I try to make to my students:  translation websites can be a useful resource, but never a replacement for old-fashioned language mastery.

            I note that Systran translates from Chinese but not into it, and Reverso doesn't do Chinese at all.  Our much-missed colleague Charles Ridley was a professional translator of Chinese (as well as other languages).  I wish he were here to comment.

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            • Translation Websites and Software in China (George Zhibin Gu, China 02/12/20 3:09 AM)
              WAIS has been discussing translation software and portals. John E asked me off-Forum for a comment on the resources available in China.

              Nearly all Chinese web portals have an automatic translation software installed. The top ones include Baidu, Sina and 360.

              In terms of actual translations between Chinese and English, translations of words are common and usually accurate. But translations of sentences are very inaccurate.

              I have tried to translate one small essay from English into Chinese, but the results are very confusing. Around 30% of the content is simply wrong, but still, the result is somewhat readable when one tries hard enough.

              Among international search engines, I have used Bing.com, which is slightly better than most Chinese search portals. Several years ago, I also used Google, which is about the same as Bing, but Google is banned in China today.

              JE comments: Thank you, George! I was somehow unaware that Google is blocked in China, as it is in Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and (strangely) Crimea. Some sources state there is no Google in Cuba, but this is not the case. (There is, however, a great deal of blocking of individual content.)

              Chinese officials claim that Google performs spy functions in addition to benign search. A not altogether fanciful point.  When Big Tech is forever collecting "data points" on its users, is there really any difference?

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  • Not Seeing the Forast for the Dreams (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 02/03/20 3:30 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    In reply to Jordi Molins and JE (February 2), the precise moment when I
    first met the word "forastero" was in a little clapboard room in a
    vast jungle under a steady misting rain, my refuge after wandering
    lost and starving for days, as I recovered from the milky white
    poisoned sap of a euphorb tree, which had bled temptingly under
    my machete. The room, affixed to a farflung government outpost
    unreachable by car, was the cramped dorm of a young schoolteacher,
    who generously conceded the empty cot in the corner. For about
    two weeks, having come into the country illegally by the back door,
    across a jungle river with no formalities, I had been in Guatemala.
    For the first couple of days of refuge, in a tiny settlement called
    El Pato, overlooking the brown flow of the Río Pasión, I didn't do much,
    because my feet were shot. The only thing to read in the room
    was a dog-eared paperback novel by a Guatemalan luminary, maybe
    Asturias himself. I sat on the unmade bed puzzling at the book.
    I didn't know what to make of the lofty language, where people in a
    nebulous bygone Guatemala seemed forever to be hailing one
    another with phrases like, "Ho there, forastero." The word gnawed
    at me, like a sneer at my lostness. The context kept suggesting it
    didn't exactly mean "forest," and yet somehow not exactly not forest.
    No dictionaries there, no cellphones, no Internet. Not even any roads.

    It was I who was in the nebulous bygone past, in a jungle in time.
    That strange, prickly little word would lodge like a splinter in moronic
    memory, never to go away over--what?--four decades to come? It
    didn't dawn on me at that moment, nor even for years afterward, that this
    persistent word-splinter at the back of my mind--seemingly the epitome
    of the trivial and irrelevant, like a chewing-gum jingle--had stuck because
    it worked like a dream. A single agglomerating nugget gathered into itself
    a sprawling panorama of painful predicament. It didn't have to directly mean
    "forest" to anybody but me. For I was the forastero.

    JE comments:  Gary, I too was lost in the forast, but mine was a far more banal sojourn:  I made it a youthful goal to read García Márquez's Cien años de soledad during my semester in Morelia, Mexico.  The year was a very literary one:  1984, and it was a life-changing decision.  Then and there I realized I could survive a long novel in the Spanish original, and I decided to pursue this hobby for a career.

    After the forast, we should visit the monte:  In Spanish it does mean a small mountain, as you would assume, but it also translates as wilderness.  And then there's the monte de piedad (Pity Mountain?), which bizarrely refers to a pawn shop.

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    • Voices Crying in the Monte (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 02/04/20 3:53 AM)

      Gary Moore writes:

      By extending the "forastero" word discussion onto "monte,"
      John E (February 3) has opened one of my favorite topics:
      the endless journalistic mistranslations that occur when
      hotel-bound reporters stray into the Latin American countryside.
      We have reports of going "onto the mountain," when no mountain
      is there; of "hiding in the mountain," when no caves seem at hand.
      Excited farmers are quoted sternly: "We had to go through the
      mountain." Magicians! You can almost see the self-important
      inquirer musing for a moment that these rural ignoramuses are
      liable to spout almost any old fantasy. But it's the hearer in these
      cases who's revealing something: the ancient divide between city
      and country, which at its worst has smug city slickers fearing that on
      the farm they'll be bitten by some fearsome cow.

      As JE implied--increasing my already deep respect for his knowledge--both "monte" and its correlate "montaña" have special precision,
      at least in the outback of Mexico and Central America that I've seen.
      They don't mean "mountain." Any peak is a mere "cerro," a hill, and
      a mountain range is "sierra" or "serrania," or, ranging south, "cordillera."

      But "monte" has usage dating back to the primeval village, perhaps
      to the Latin. If you're out on a lonely road and headed toward a settlement,
      you're going toward the "valle"--even if the village in question is in no
      particular basin. "Valle" is the opposite of "monte." "Valle" is where a huddled
      settlement exists, surrounded by the inscrutable "monte"--which is where
      people don't live, because its too tangled and harsh. Or in other words,
      "monte" means (to borrow from Australia) "the bush." John translated it
      as "wilderness," with a justifiable majesty, but the sense on the ground
      is often intimate and routine. I've only seen one or two journalism reports
      that seemed to get this--and yet these are the eyes and ears we rely on
      for understanding this monte stretching south of familiar shopping malls.

      The monte-valle spectrum also refracts in another mystery word, now
      scattered in US geography from Wyoming to Florida: the word "cimarron."
      If a domestic animal runs wild, it takes off for the highest, most remote
      peaks--the cimas--primevally equating altitude with wildness or sparseness
      of population (being the not-valle). The freed beast there is a cimarron--a word
      also applied to fugitive humans, hence its scattering in former outlaw lands
      in the Spanish-influenced US. But you have to squint hard to see it in Florida,
      in the transposed pijin word "Seminole."

      In the early 1980s when the Nicaraguan guerrilla chic author and Culture Minister,
      Comandante Omar Cabezas, delivered his avante garde opus about guerrilla fighters
      being tested by living in the wilds, he titled it "La Montaña es más que una inmensa
      Estepa Verde." Most obvious was his comparison to Bolshevik exile on Russian steppes,
      but there was also the confusing fact that he was not talking about mountains, not specifically.
      The montaña Cabezas referred to did include mountains, but only incidentally. He meant
      going to the bush, taking to the wilds in general, fleeing into the outback--in order (as the
      revolutionary tracts had it) to then come back and redeem decadent civilization (or at least
      to wreak havoc on it).

      Omar knew all too well one of the greatest curses of the monte, though it is so unknown
      by north-of-the-border city slickers that headlines in the 2018 illegal immigration crisis
      cried about horrific "flesh-eating bacteria" found on a new arrival from distant jungles.
      Actually, all they had found was an instance of the old guerrilla-fighter's disease, leishmaniasis,
      which is fortunately easily treated, though in the meantime it looks like holy hell, eating flesh
      clear down to the bone (typically on a shin or ankle). The common name for this bacterial wonder
      is lepra de montaña. That first word is dire enough, meaning "leprosy." But the second word
      doesn't mean "mountain."

      JE comments:  Leishmaniasis lesions are not for the squeamish.  Medical descriptions should take a page from Gary Moore:  They look like Holy Hell.  From Holy Hell to the Holy Land:  In another era, they were known as "Jericho Buttons," as the affliction was believed to have originated in the Levant.


      Cuba's sublime patriot-poet José Martí bridged the city-monte divide best in his Simple Verses:  "Arte soy entre las artes; en el monte, monte soy."  (My gloss:  I'm equally at home in the literary salon or roughing it in the boondocks.)  

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      • J Frank Dobie's "Tongues of the Monte" (Richard Hancock, USA 02/04/20 12:16 PM)
        I found Gary Moore's latest post to be very interesting and would recommend that WAISers read the book, Tongues of the Monte, by Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, first published in 1947 and a later edition by the U of Texas in 1987.

        This is a personal memoir by Dobie of growing up on a ranch in the brush country of south Texas where almost all employees were Spanish-speaking Mexicans. In addition, he made various horseback trips through northern Mexico which gave rise to this book as well as several others including Coronado's Children, and Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver. These three books provide much knowledge of the vast, still largely unoccupied land, located just south of the US Border.

        I wish to make another comment which really has not much relation to the above, but does illustrate the many examples of Mexican culture in the US. We have the North and South Canadian rivers in Oklahoma. I have always wonder how they received that name being so far from Canada. The origin of that name may be that in New Mexico the Canadian river flows through an impressive canyon, called "La Cañada" in Spanish which, If you remove the tilde from above the n, the word becomes "Canada." This seems a logical explanation to me.

        JE comments:  Dobie wrote some 25 books on the Old Southwest.  Richard Hancock (WAISdom's own Bard of the Southwest) has posted several times on this legendary folklorist.  Here's Richard's post from 9-11 2014:


        There are several Texas schools named in Dobie's honor, and his ranch is now operated by U Texas-Austin as a writer's retreat.

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      • Disease of the Day: Leishmaniasis or Jericho Buttons (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 02/05/20 7:52 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        Thanks to John E (February 4) for that beautiful Jose Martí couplet:
        "Arte soy entre las artes; en el monte, monte soy." And to
        Richard Hancock and Enrique Torner, same date, for their kind words
        on my lostness in the monte.

        JE also caught me up on the medieval
        nickname for the disease called lepra de montaña (leishmaniasis).
        John points out that it was known to afflicted Levant Crusaders as
        "Jericho buttons"--opening a host of questions linked to the fact that
        leishmaniasis, with its "flesh-eating bacteria," was also a problem
        in the 1990 Gulf War. Not many jungles there. So what's the deal
        with this "jungle" bug?

        JE comments:  Google "Baghdad Boils" and you'll find the same nasty disease.  What is possibly more significant than the affliction itself, which is easily treatable with antibiotics, is the xenophobia and "othering" of its several names. 

        I wonder which disease was the very first to get its name from a foreign land.  I'll vote for syphilis, the "French Disease" for the Spaniards, the "Italian disease" for the French, and so on.  The catastrophic Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 was first observed in Kansas, but neutral Spain got the "honor" because Spanish newspapers were the first to report it.  (The warring nations had massive press censorship at the time, and did not want to start a panic.)

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        • The "French Disease" in Arabic (Edward Jajko, USA 02/05/20 3:18 PM)
          In one of his many books, the 16th-century Cairene Sufi ‘Abd al-Wahhâb al-Sha'rânî refers to "al-marad al-ifranjî"--the Frankish illness/disease (syphilis).

          Never thought I'd get to use this item from almost 60 years ago in WAIS.

          JE comments:  The 16th century is when the disease appeared in the Old World, which led to speculation that it came from the New--i.e., with Columbus.  The last time I researched it, the "scientific record" still is not certain where syphilis originated.  Abd al-Wahhâb al-Sha'rân was correct in one sense:  as with all diseases, it came from somewhere else.

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    • on the Pawn Shop/Monte de Piedad (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/04/20 3:56 AM)

      Commenting on Gary Moore's post of February 3rd, John E mentioned a very interesting word in Spanish, the "Monte de Piedad (Pity Mountain?), which bizarrely refers to a pawn shop." Coincidentally I also always wondered where this name came from.

      It turns out the name is not bizarre at all. As the name suggests, it came from a religious context, the Italian Monte di Pietà, also called in Spain Montepío. Its remote origin is probably from the Middle Ages in Spain when the Catholic religious order, the Franciscans, founded the Arcas de Limosnas (handout arks/coffers?) to help poorer classes.

      The first Monte di Pietà apparently was founded in Italy in the 15th century as another initiative of the same order as a way to fight usury.  Originally they did not charge interest for the money borrowed, but rather guaranteed the loan with some personal articles, clothing, jewelry, etc. The word monte referred to a pile of money and Pietà-Piedad to differentiate it to other commercial montes, giving the religious sense of pity.

      In Spain today there are only a few of these places, which eventually in the past century were the origin of the Cajas de Ahorro, very popular and important financial institutions.

      By the way, I agree with Paul Preston regarding to the words escampar and forastero in Spanish. They are common and not used rarely, as some WAIS comments have suggested.

      JE comments:  Mexico's Nacional Monte de Piedad is the best known and probably the world's biggest.  It was founded in 1774 and has 200 branches throughout the country.  Originally the institution operated as a charity, charging no interest on pledged items, but this business model couldn't last.  Now there is a fixed rate of 4%--still very low by pawning standards.


      Pawn shops make one think of Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov. In the spirit of Don Camillo and Pito Pérez (see Pat Mears, February 3rd), you can actually "visit" Raskolnikov's house in St Petersburg:


      I believe we've broken fertile ground for a WAIS discussion, "pawning around the world."

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