Thursday 8 February 2018

Chile, not Chili

I'm off to Chile for a fortnight's holiday. The main thing about Chile, etymologically speaking, is that it is not the origin of the word chili meaning spicy stuff in food. That word comes from the Aztecs who lived all the way up in Mexico. Oddly enough, our standard word for the Aztec equivalent of beer - pulque - is from a language spoken in what's now Chile: Araucanian to be precise. This language also gave us gaucho, meaning wanderer, and poncho, meaning woolen cloth.

So where does the name Chile come from? Nobody is very certain. But one theory is that it comes from a lost native language and means cold place or land's end. In which case it would be appropriate as the tip of Chile - Tierra del Fuego, or land of fire - is very cold even now, in their midsummer.

Santiago, though, is rather warm, which is why I'm going.

For more information about words of Chilean origin have a look at this old post about mamihlapinatapai.

The hotel was not as described


  1. Oh my goodness, so "The hotel was not as described", LOL! I extend my deepest sympathies; would you extend yours to me if you knew how often--far more than I care to confess--your marvelous book ("The Elements of Eloquence") remains open on my reading table at home? ;-)

  2. Sorry to disappoint you, but Tierra del Fuego is part of Argentina, not Chile.
    As an Argentinian, I should know.

    I'm a huge fan, by the way! Your books are awesome, I am an English teacher and an English-Spanish Translation student and they have helped me a lot during these last years.
    Can't wait to read A Short History Of Drunkenness! It gathers all the topics I love, of course. Cheers!

    1. Indeed it is in Argentina. As a Brazilian, I can play neutral party here, and say that I grew up thinking Patagonia was also in Argentina only... until I met a Chilean who gave me a good hour-long class on how Patagonia extends over Chile too... and how their Patagonia is so much better than the Argentine one.

      Though unfortunately I have never been to either, yet.