Look busy!

In addition to the A Word a Day email that I’ve mentioned before, I get a Spanish Palabra¹ del día message². PDD takes a different form than AWAD, consisting of a longer narrative about the word’s history. Because English has so many Latin-rooted words, I frequently learn something in this Spanish message that sheds light on the origin of one or more English words that I know.

A few days ago, the PDD was negocio, “business.” I had always assumed it was related to negotiate, but I had never looked into what the connection might be. I did know however, that ocio meant something like laziness in Spanish. What I learned from the PDD email was that Latin otium, from which ocio is derived, meant “leisure.” With the prefix of negation, neg-otium literally meant “that which is not leisure.” I guess the only other option is business! (Please note that the Spanish word for work—trabajo—comes from the Latin word for torture chamber, and is thus an even less desirable alternative to R&R.)

Negotium evolved into our current Spanish word negocio. Negotiate has been around in English since about the turn of the 17th century. It comes from the past participle of the Latin verb negotiari, “to trade,” which also comes from negotium.

As I often do, I went in search of other words that might be related, and I found one that I believe was new to me. Otiose, pronounced either “OH-shee-ohse” or “OH-tee-ohse” means being at leisure, ineffective, or useless. I find it interesting that the meaning of rest or relaxation can so easily slip into laziness or worthlessness. I guess it’s a fine line between spending a little healthy time in the hammock and developing into a full-blown, do-nothing slacker.
¹Compare palaver, “profuse or persuasive talk,” which comes from the Portuguese palavra, also meaning word.
²I receive the PDD from elcastellano.org. It has an etymological focus. Another PDD, meant as a vocabulary builder, is available from www.donquijote.org/pdd/

About Verla

Wordfreak. Retired private investigator and Spanish court interpreter. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, in New Mexico by choice. Lover of things purple. Passionate participant in the Librivox audiobook recording project. We record books that are in the public domain in the U.S. The recordings are then placed in the public domain themselves.
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