Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Word Mystery: sales / rebajas / soldes


Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages.

A coworker approached my cubicle and stood in my line of sight. When I glanced up at her, she said, “I need your help buying a computer because you’re cheap.” I sighed and said, “I suggest you rephrase.”

Take two: “You know what I mean. Do what you do.” I blinked at her. “As a member of the editorial team, you should really choose your words more carefully,” I countered.

Eventually, she got to where she needed to be. “You,” meaning me, “always seem to get good deals on stuff. I” meaning her, “always seem to be paying more than I want. Will you please help me buy a new computer?” Twenty minutes later, she’d received the confirmation email that her purchase had been processed. And she got three different rebates on her first iBook.

She never did thank me but knowing that I had a reputation as a person who paid the right price for stuff made me happy. Today, I can begin to pay closer to what I deem appropriate because the government-sanctioned summer sales have begun.


EN → sales — an event for the rapid disposal of goods at reduced prices for a period, esp. at the end of a season. ORIGIN from Old Norse selja [sell].

ES rebajasVenta de existencias a precios más bajos, durante un tiempo determinado. [Sale of existing stock at reduced prices during a set period of time.] ORIGIN Noun form of verb rebajar [reduce] from verb bajar [lower] this from Latin bassus [low, base].

FR soldesconsistent à vendre avec une réduction (braderie) sur le prix, les invendus de la saison venant de se terminer. [Consists of a sale with a reduction in price (discount) of the unsold stock of the previous season for a set period of time.] ORIGIN Latin Soulde, the payment/salary made to soldiers, possibly referring to a small, set amount of money.

What? I wasn’t expecting Odin to be all up in this Word Mystery! English wins for bringing the Scandinavian down from Asgard.

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

4 thoughts on “Word Mystery: sales / rebajas / soldes

  1. Something that still baffles me a bit…government legislated sales! I guess it isn’t bad as consumers know when to expect a sales but it is interesting that merchants can’t decide when they want to put something on sales. Not something we are used to coming from North American.

    • I find that bi-annual sales have an upside (you always know when the price will go down), but the downside (insane crowds, fighting, etc.) are pretty severe. Neither system is perfect but it’s pretty frustrating to wait half a year to buy some things just because I won’t pay full retail.

  2. I like how ‘soldes’ and ‘sales’ are similar but come from Romanic and Gemanic languages, respectively. Language is funny like that (although they probably have the same route in Proto-Indo-European before this). Good post!

    • I sometimes wonder about alien life forms and what they’d think of language development on Earth. (Have I mentioned that I think about things WAY TOO MUCH?) Then I wonder if there are other ways for language to move, shift and adapt. Then my head hurts and I take a nap.

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