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: swell / hinchar / gonfler

2 Comments

Wednesdays, I explore the linguistic origins of the same word in different languages.

Christmas in July was a bit of a joke on my part, but that week ended up being cold enough in Paris that I ran the heat for a couple hours when I got home every night. The following week, it was back to games of sweaty sardines on the Metro, sweaty shirts on the sidewalks and sweaty feet stuck in sweaty shoes. I had to take two showers every day because when I got home, I had to clean the grime off myself as well as cool my body temperature down.

This is a bad way to feel.

One of the most unpleasant side effects of being so overheated is that my feet and fingers swell up a ton. They looked like overstuffed-sausage — so much so that I wondered if I was going to split open like so many failed sausages do on cooking shows. I didn’t want that to happen so I did the only thing I could think of: put bags of frozen loose vegetables like peas and beans on all my body parts and hope like hell that they returned to their normal dimensions.

Now, the bloating’s gone down enough that I can type so everything’s back to being just plain swell.

EN → swell — become larger or rounder in size, typically as a result of an accumulation of fluid. ORIGIN Old English swellan related to German schwellen.

ES → hincharHacer que aumente de volumen algún objeto o cuerpo, llenándolo de aire u otra cosa. [Making the volumen of a thing or body enlarge, by filling with air or something else.] ORIGIN Latin inflāre [inflate].

FR → gonflerAugmenter le volume de quelque chose en le remplissant d’un gaz, d’un fluide. [Increasing the volume of a thing by filling it with air or a fluid.] ORIGIN From Latin conflare [increase through breath].

English note: is it the Yiddishloving American in me that always wants a schw- word to win? Maybe it’s just that I saw SPACEBALLS too many times.

Spanish note: words that begin with “h” always throw me since they don’t seem native to the language. Seeing the Latin root totally demystified this one. Way to take all the fun out of life, Latin.

French note: the origin said it was a “dialectical word” which doesn’t make much sense to me. I think it means “related to a dialect” which makes way more sense than “dialectical” but what do I know? (Answer: seriously little.)

Spanish and French note: both words are also used to mean “pump with air.”

Due to its specificity and its German roots, English is taking the prize home today.

Author: le cul en rows

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

2 thoughts on “Word Mystery: swell / hinchar / gonfler

  1. Hi! I don’t know if you remember me, but you used to read my blog when I lived in France. Well, guess what, I’ve decided to learn Spanish and move to Barcelona (I realize that they also speak a lot of Catalan there.) Do you have any tips on how to get started? I’m supposing it will be easier now that I speak French, but I don’t know enough Spanish to see the ressemblances yet. – Catherine

    • Hey there! Send me an email and I can write back with all kinds of info. How far along are you in the moving process? Do you mean getting started with Catalan or Spain/BCN in general? Let me know if you need any practical getting-an-apartment type info, or just want a sketched primer.

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