History of Spanish language

Castilian or spanish? one language, two names

In the Anglo-Saxon world, Spanish is spoken in generic terms, but when they want to specify the Spanish spoken in Spain, they refer to this language as Castilian. However, all of us who speak Spanish do not make that difference in usage because we know it is incorrect since both terms are synonymous. Both names are correct and mean the same thing. Proof of this is that, in 1611, the first monolingual dictionary called Treasure of the Castilian or Spanish language was published.

Despite this, the question repeatedly arises about which of these two names is appropriate or which corresponds to which country. However, on behalf of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language (RAE) and the language academies of the rest of the countries of Spanish speakers, the answer is clear: the two names are synonyms.

Birth of Spanish

When languages derived from Latin had to be classified in some way, they began to be spoken of as Romance languages, and from this classification emerged the names Castilian, Catalan and Aragonese, among others.

In this way, around 1250, the term Castilian romance was born about the language spoken in the kingdom of Castile and León. As this kingdom’s political power grew, so did its language, which expanded and was enriched with contributions from the other languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula.

Thus, at the end of the Middle Ages, different ways of speaking were grouped under the name of Castilian or Castilian language, both from Castile and León, Navarra, and Aragon, both from the north and the south. Starting in the 15th century, Spanish began to be used as a lingua franca throughout Spain.

The first records of the Spanish term

From the 16th century onwards, the new name, Spanish language or Spanish, began to compete with the traditional Castilian language. The name was not born in Spain but outside. At first, it was a purely geographical demonym, but later, neighbouring countries began to use it to refer to the language. Thus, little by little, driven first from abroad, the term Spanish language gained followers.

From then until the beginning of the 20th century, there was a clear and constant preference for the term Spanish language until, in the last century, Castilian and Spanish became interchangeable terms in the cultured language.

Currently, from a linguistic point of view, Castilian is the variety of Spanish spoken in the ancient Kingdom of Castile, that is, in central Spain.

Uses in Spain and Latin America

After the independence processes of the new American republics, the new countries were inclined to use the term Castilian, mainly to distance themselves from the demonym of the country from which they were becoming independent.

Currently, preferences are distributed: from Ecuador to the north, in Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United States, the use of Spanish or the Spanish language is overwhelming. In most of South America, the word Castilian is used more. Nevertheless, the international voice of the Spanish language has been gaining ground, especially among young people.

In Spain, the name Castilian is common in bilingual territories to distinguish it from other co-official languages such as Galician, Basque, and Catalan. At the same time, it is usually called Spanish in the rest of the country.

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Spanish as a language

Perpetual motion. Palindromes and anagrams in Spanish

The word palindrome comes from the Greek meaning “that runs in reverse.” Poetic. Now, in simple words, a palindrome is a phrase or word that can be read equally from left to right and from right to left. Anagrams, meanwhile, are words (or phrases) that result from the transposition of letters within another word.

Palindromes and anagrams are language exercises that turn it into a game and challenge of ingenuity. These games are so old that Duncan Fishwick, British historian, and world authority in Roman history, said that palindrome composition was a pastime of the Roman nobility. One of the most famous multiple palindromes is the famous Sator Square, found in the ruins of Pompeii and present in other remains of Roman buildings.

This palindrome is made up of five letters written in Latin and arranged so that they can be read from left to right or vice versa and from top to bottom and vice versa:






The meaning of this palindrome is still a subject of study and debate, as opinions are divided between those who give it a religious, cabalistic, or other interpretation linked to the daily events of the time.

Amor, Roma y mora

In contemporary Spanish, one of the excellent references to palindromes is the Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso, master of the short story and a prolific inventor of many palindromes.

Monterroso spoke about this game in his text Onís es asesino, an accusatory palindrome, where he reflects on the art of wordplay and how Spanish seems to be a particularly conducive language for wordplay. In this text, he takes a tour of different games that can be played with words, describing meetings with other writers in which they spent entire afternoons or nights playing and sharing his creations. Here are some examples:

¡Acá, caca! Augusto Monterroso

[Here, poop!]

Amo a la paloma. Carlos Illescas.

[I love the Dove]

Odio la luz azul al oído. Rubén Bonifaz Nuño

[I hate the blue light in my ear]

Madam, I’m Adam. James Joyce.

Somos laicos, Adán; nada social somos. Carlos Illescas.

[We are lay, Adam; We are not at all social]

Anagrams are a linguistic game like the palindrome, but less demanding: amor, Roma y mora are all anagrams, but there are also longer ones such as Camilo Ruge, anagram of murciélago (bat).

Anagrams are also a method of encrypting messages, like Lalo Barrubia, a Uruguayan writer (she) whose pseudonym is an anagram of la loba rubia (the blonde wolf). Avida Dollars is another great example of an anagram with an encrypted message. It corresponds to the anagram that André Breton devised to refer disparagingly to Salvador Dalí and his thirst for money at the expense of that of the creator.

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you are looking to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, remember to subscribe to our wonderful grammar checker. We are waiting for you!

The language today

The influence of cinema and TV on language

Film and television are part of popular culture, which takes elements from the real world for inspiration and either exaggerates or creatively reinterprets them. But what happens when it is communication in the real world that is influenced by what is projected on the screen?

Many movie phrases are already part of everyday language. The voice of our conscience, or the one who plays the role of being our critical advisor, is known as Jiminy Cricket, in reference to the character from the animated film Pinocchio of 1940. Jiminy Cricket was responsible for reorienting Pinocchio’s steps after he became a compulsive liar.

Cinema and television influence us consciously and unconsciously. Often, words or expressions used on the screen are part of popular culture, so explaining an idea further is unnecessary.

Some expressions are in the collective unconscious, such as movie scenes or scenes that are believed to belong to a movie, although, they never existed. In fact, in the classic film Tarzan, the protagonist never says, I Tarzan, you Jane but hits her chest and says Tarzan, then hits Jane and says Jane. This curiosity also occurs in original novels such as Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, where the famous phrase elementary, my dear Watson never existed.

We have all grown up watching movies whose dialogues have remained forever in our subconscious. Some expressions are so massively naturalised that we often ignore their origin. For example, the word paparazzi is a linguistic loan originating from Italian, incorporated into the lexicon of Spanish, English and other languages. Its origin is in the character Paparazzo from the famous film La Dolce Vita (1960) by Federico Fellini. Paparazzo means mosquito, and in the film, it was the name of the protagonist photographer. After the film, the term began to refer to the photographers of the so-called tabloid press.

From theatre and television

Another influence of the world of entertainment on everyday speech is found in the expression gaslighting. This term originated in 1938 after the premiere of the play of the same name. In this English play, a husband tries to drive his wife into madness by dimming the gas lights in his house and then denying that the light changes when his wife points it out. From then on, the expression refers to the psychological manipulation that someone exercises on another to make them question the validity of their thoughts and perception of reality.

Peinar la muñeca (combing the doll) is a localism used in Chile to refer to someone going through an episode of alienation or disturbance or whose mental faculties are disturbed. This ingenious phrase commonly used in the country originates in the last chapter of Los Títeres. A famous soap opera shown on Chilean television in 1984. In it, the character of actress Gloria Munchmayer, now entirely out of her mind, begins to talk to her dolls and aggressively throw them into the pool. After this, the protagonist enters the pool and hugs some dolls while dips the heads of others. Finally, she maternally hugs them all while stroking their hair. The disturbing scene exuded so much isolation and madness that it remained in the national collective subconscious and became the saying peinar la muñeca used to refer to someone who does not seem to be in their right mind.

If you have been interested in the anecdote of the origin of this expression, you can review the last scene of Los títeres.

The sagas that accompany generations

A film that has influenced the language of both older and younger generations is Star Wars. It is common for some to refer to their apprentices as my young Padawan. In addition, the film saga is complete with well-known phrases, such as the traditional I am your father, from Darth Vader or the countless references people make to the dark side of the force.

And, you know: May the force -and iScribo- be with you.

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you are looking to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, remember to subscribe to our wonderful grammar checker. We are waiting for you!

History of Spanish language

Metathesis: Murciégalo, cocreta y cocodrilo. Are they actually mistaken words?

When children whose mother tongue is Spanish begin to speak, it is standard for them to make mistakes such as saying murciégalo instead of murciélago (bat) or cocreta instead of croqueta (croquette). Does that sound familiar to you? These errors called metatheses, correspond to when the sound changes places within a word. But what if I told you that those children are not wrong? Does it take you by surprise? For sure, yes.

Let’s look at the example of a murciégalo. In the current dictionary, this word appears to be a variant of murciélago, although it is perceived as vulgar. However, the original term is precisely murciégalo, as it derives from the Latin voices mus, muris (mouse) and caecúlus, a diminutive of caecus (blind). In this case, the original metathesis, murciélago, has been documented since the 13th century and soon passed into the cultured language. The first academic dictionary included, already in 1734, the two variants. But this is not the only case.

Many Spanish words owe their current form to the phenomenon of metathesis. Another representative case is cocodrilo, which is corrupted by crocodrilo (another classic “mistake” children make). It resembles the English word crocodile, and, as in the case of murciégalo, the etymological term that ended up being lost due to a metathesis. The original Latin word was crocodilus, derived from the Greek krokódeilos, from króke (pebble) and drilos (worm). It must be said that in this case, metathesis was already used in medieval Latin, where reference was made to crocodillus.

Peligro is another word that has undergone a change in the order of its sounds and the acceptance of this. Peligro (danger) comes from the Latin pericùlum. This voice should have evolved into periglo, a variant that was documented until the 16th century. Something similar happened with milagro (miracle); This word comes from miraglo. Other cases are guirnalda (garland), whose word was initially guirlanda, or Algeria, which, like in English, was initially said Algeria.

In popular speech, metathesis has given rise to words such as dentrífico, mistakenly used instead of dentífrico, from the Latin denifrícum, which in turn derives from the Latin words dens, dentis (tooth) and fricare (rub).

When the error of the error is the right thing

If we think about it, many of today’s metatheses children make are the original voices derived from Latin. That is, the original voice will probably be returned if, as happened previously, the vulgar voice or error is accepted as part of educated speech.

The error of the error seems to be the return to the etymological origin of these words. A journey of several centuries to return to the same place, but with a very interesting route, don’t you think?

So, if you have children, and they say crocodilo or murciégalo, remember that they are not completely wrong and that they are the ones who are closest to the origin of the word in Latin. Most likely they will not be able to refer to the etymological origin of the word, thanks to what you just learned today, perhaps you can do it.

Keep learning curiosities about the language and the Spanish language, visiting and reading the articles we publish weekly on the iScribo blog. If you are looking to improve your Spanish writing and correct a specific variant of this language, remember to subscribe to our wonderful grammar checker. We are waiting you!

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