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What do you know about the word that you use. Do you really know the American language and the words that make it up. Today we present the ape program in a new series on the American language by Mitford Matthews. Mr. Mathews is editor in chief of the dictionary of Americanisms published by the University of Chicago Press and is a lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago. Today's program is on the Spanish get out to Matthew's. Spanish stands at the head of all the European languages from which Americans have replenished their words apply. Mostly borrowings have been made since the opening of the 19th century when Americans advanced into the southwest and came in contact with the Spanish civilization and led the results of the meeting began at once to be apparent in the speech of our soldiers. Kabul as an homesteading. There is an interesting
sociological factor in this wholesale borrowing of Spanish words the Spanish explorers and cockroaches in the new world seem not to have been inhibited in their intercourse with the native indians by any law. The notions of racial superiority. They associated freely with the Indians married them brought up children by them helped them in their tribal wars and secured the assistance of their red brothers in their own undertakings. From earlier times. The Spanish adventurous and mission IRA's interested themselves in the Indian languages and committed a large number of Indian words to writing. They took it under their own Spanish speech. A great number of these Indian expression. Consequently when the Spaniards and the Americans came in contact the southwest the Spaniards us first comers were well-equipped for passing on the English speakers words of strictly Spanish origin and also meant a
term which they had taken from the MTA. They were two in one sort of bar away. The number of Spanish place names scattered all over the United States especially in the West. Is so large that only a few of them can here be touched upon. But even from these it is clear that the Spanish speakers were passing two kinds of linguistic cum on that of their own home which was old and that which they had more recent Lisah cured chiefly from the American lady. California is a good example of word passed on to us. Out of the vocabulary which the Spanish brought with them to this country. This word has a long and interesting history. Its ultimate source cannot well be made out but it has been in the Spanish language since 15:00 as the name of an earthly paradise somewhere in the new were a love letter tropical island peopled Empire led
by women of surpassing beauty and of such martial valor as the Amazons of old were reputed to possess Spanish explorers who came to this country in the early days knew about this fable land of California and of course they were ardently anxious to reach it. Not all of the plague of its bliss but also to be able to give a first hand account of it to their friends when they returned home. Among the first Bunyan's to touch upon the coast of what is now known as Lower California. There were those who knew about this realm of pearls and gold and beautiful women. Thinking they had at last reached this fabled kingdom they named the new land of California. Believing At first it was an island. Arizona unlike California is a word which the Spaniards took over from the Indians and passed on the English speaking Americans. There are different stories about the Indian word Our words are from which the
Spanish Kaunda Arizona and the best version of the matter is that some 85 miles southwest of Tucson and a few miles south of the present southern border of Arizona. There was a spring which the Indians knew improvs bear my name for it was something like All a zone meaning small spring. And out of this term the Spaniards fashioned Arizona. It should be noticed that too son just mentioned illustrates the same kind of activity on the part of the Spaniards after taking Indian names and passing them along. And the Indian word which the Spaniards Road us to sign also had reference to a spring. Sometimes of course the Spanish out of their own linguistic resources evolved in my name which later became the procession of those who followed them in the way. Alcatraz which inevitably calls to mind the grammar prison there
is a name of this kind. When the Spaniards first came upon the rocky island of San Francisco Bay. They were impressed by the number of pelicans that made it their home. Accordingly they named Tilikum their word propellor them being tried. Nobody has ever commented on Spanish names in this country without calling attention to the following episode. In 15 90 for a band of Spaniards in search of riches pressed north from Mexico into what is now Colorado. On this expedition a qual spring up and one of the part it was the priest who was accompanying them refused to go further with such grand rascals a murderess but without him they pressed down and nothing more was ever heard of. Years later some human bombs believed to be there were found near a river. They had bad with blood on their
hands. As no priest had been present to administer the last rites of the church. Consequently the stream near where the bombs were found was called by the force from him and the real dull asana mass per day dowse him per got Tauriel. That is River of the souls lost in purgatory. The French came later into this environment. And finding the river with a name so much longer than usual immediately cut them I am down to Purgatory are. That is purgatory. After the French had exercised their ingenuity on the Spanish name. American cowboy was appeared on the scene and pronouncing the French name target are in their own way referred to the stream as the picket Wye River. The stream has survived all this night and still flows into the Arkansas River. The name given that all maps are being
purgatory river but it is often called a picket line. The town near where it enters the Arkansas is known as Las on a mass that is the so so unlike him which harks back to the name of the river which the Spanish gave. The full story of United States place names has yet to be written but when it is one of its remarkable features will be the revelation of the extent to which Spanish place names are spread all over the country. Many of us have been the ways of their passing soldiers who felt first for Texas and later in the same part of the United States. Mom her cab was adventurous. I had a part in scattering abroad such names as Americans everywhere have found a life full of music. There are places named Alamo in Georgia Indiana Michigan and Tennessee. They are elderly those in states as far away from the Golden West as a limo
on Michigan Ohio Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Kentucky and Pennsylvania have their Sacramento's. And there are some neuros in Kentucky New York and Ohio. Hundreds of Spanish words other than place names have become part of the English language in this country as might be expected a good many of them are confined to the southwest and the West. But a large number have shaken off their regionalism and are now well-understood all over the country on their listing of the more common of these include such terms as Adios. Odd though I have a card up Bonanza Bronco. But our cafeteria calaboose Canyon St. chorale cloud filibuster gringo who scout lariat lasso loco marijuana mesquite Mustang pronto. Ryan's rodeo rumba stampede
Tamala the moose. Spanish words are more than ordinarily an interesting take for example gringo in the list just give him a century or more ago of those who spoke Spanish in the Southwest began to apply this term to those from the United States and they did so under circumstances that made it clear that they did not mind the nickname as a complement. Scholars have been puzzled over the word and in their effort to explain its origin. They have wondered if it might be somehow a development from the opening words in an old Scottish song Green Grow the rushes which inspired Robert Burns to write a poem beginning with this line. That green arrow might somehow develop into. Gringo is not a tall life but this suggested source. While the origin of the nickname has gained considerable currency despite the fact that there is no rhyme or reason to it.
A far better explanation of gringo is that it's a Spanish day and of the usual Spanish word for Greek. We in English say of something we do not understand. It's Greek to me and those who speak Spanish have the same expression in their language but they go a step further and call a person whose speech is unintelligible to them. A Greek that is a Greek Eggo. Or as we say a gringo those in the Southwest who first called Americans gringos were merely alluding to the fact that the speech of the American was not intelligible to the. Rumba. Another word in our latest is a Spanish borrowing that came into English within the memory of men and now living. The dance of this my name was popular in Cuba before it reached the United States. And there it was a somewhat violent and sent us nature so much so in fact that Webster's dictionary mentions that Cuban
law prohibited the dance. I am reliably informed I wrote that the rumba has not been asked in this country and is neither violent nor sufficient listened to us to create a panic. At any rate the word rumba is believed to be one which passed into Spanish from some African language. Marijuana is another Spanish borrowing the remote origin of which is not clear. The Spanish of the new world no less than the english has in it words not known in the homeland. The Spanish term from which we have barred Marwan marijuana more than 50 years ago is a typical Spanish new world turn where it comes from no one can foster less safe. Some of the Spanish term is now widely known and used in the United States have come into the anguished language twice once in Europe and again in this country. Bertha is a well-known word with us and the animal that hit the notes has played an OM Bolo
useful role in the domestic economy of the Southwest south of the poet laureate of the thing use the word more than once but it never became firmly rooted in English use. There were no boroughs in England and no occasion fall. Under the circumstances it is not to be wondered at that the word did not arrive in the British climate. Things were entirely different over here and the word had become further firmly established. Filibuster is the same kind of word. It came in to use in a month about the closure of the 16th century and has had a somewhat insecure footing in the English of Britain ever since. If it ever passed from British and American news no evidence of such translation is now available. But 100 years ago there was a considerable improves as on the part of adventurous Americans to take part in and even the stage insurrections in their Spanish-American country. Under the impetus of this type of activity.
American language
The Spanish gift
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The eighth program in this series discusses the influence of Spanish upon American English.
Other Description
A series of talks by Mitford Mathews, editor of the Dictionary of Americanisms and lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago.
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Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Mathews, Mitford M. (Mitford McLeod), 1891-1985
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-8-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:37
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Chicago: “American language; The Spanish gift,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 17, 2022,
MLA: “American language; The Spanish gift.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 17, 2022. <>.
APA: American language; The Spanish gift. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from