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May You Live in Interesting Times

Me: I just thought of something.  Where did the word guapo come from?  Do you think it’s a word from indigenous peoples in the Caribbean?

    I was noticing that the gua (Gooah) diphthong sound is associated with the language of the Taino peoples of the Caribbean.   A good many of these words, guanábana (fruit), Guánica, G­uaynabo, (places),  guayaba (another fruit – guava), etc, are all indigenous and you can see their origins from the gua sound. 

Me: So I am wondering about the word guapo (Spanish for handsome).  Could that word have come from the New World?  And if so, why would the Spanish people have needed to appropriate it?  Wouldn’t it have already existed in their language?

    My error is a basic one, as I was to soon find out, but enlightenment is surely a blessing and one of the many benefits of being married to a smart cookie.

Laura: Interesting track of thought, I mean train, or whatever, but remember,  "gua" frequently occurs in Spanish in words that are borrowed through commerce and contact that have a "w" sound in the original language.  Remember "waffle?"  In the Basque Country they called it gofres. Ok, it did not go to GUA but it went to the gutteral "g". Perhaps a better example is the Spanish translation for "wow" is guao or "William" which is Guillermo.  Perhaps the Taino people’s spoken word for the town of Guaynabo, was Whai-NA-bo, and the fruit guanábana was Whai-NA-bah-na. 

Laura: I don’t know for sure, but some time ago I looked up Taino grammar and vocabulary and I found out that "gua" was a common article like "the", "this," "that." This results in phrases, rather than words being translated or transformed into current taíno words we know today. I think in my research I was able to come up with towns that were descriptive phrases "the settlement by the water," "the area by the big tree." Who knows if the name was an actual taíno name or a common way of referring to an area that became Spanish shorthand for a place and hence a name we know today.

Laura: However, in my limited knowledge of taíno words I can’t say they use a strong consonant sound such as "p." So I would be inclined to say that guapo is NOT of taíno origin. But then where did it come from?


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    We are such geeks… I love our fun, seat of our pants speculative journeys. No books around, tons of questions and a free flow of creative intermingling of bodies of knowledge and experience. We may lack academic rigor but it is just plain fun.

    By the way: the taíno dictionary I found online that one time is:

    I also searched for "guapo" in the 1734 Royal Academy of Spanish Dictionary and guapo has many lexical variations so it is very likely it is an old very Spanish term. HOWEVER it is interesting that the dictionary mentions Latin roots or equivalent terms and for GUAPO there is not a single Latin term. Hence, I believe the word G­UAPO is probably either borrowed from a non-latin language (which I doubt cause I dont see a clear link to say German) or it may be a term that was introduced by the local population of the Iberian Peninsula. The latter would explain the many forms of the word, the word seems to be in the "Iberian ethos." But then, note this is me having fun! My search used the following link: select the search icon and then select the edition of 1734.

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    I find this stuff/you endlessly fascinating. 🙂

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    PJ Cabrera

    Google is your friend:

    The very first link has quite extensive etymological research into it.

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    Not MY first link. What was this link that you found? I can’t find anything but speculation and untrustworthy sources.

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