Printable Version
Pronunciation: tem-blêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An earthquake.

Notes: We would all expect an earthquake to be called a trembler, but what is this temblor, with no R after the T and ending on -or? Today's Good Word is the Spanish word for "earthquake" pure and simple—no embellishments or refinements. Because it was borrowed quite recently, it has no family of related words. It is a lexical orphan.

In Play: If you have too many fair-weather friends and want to separate them from the real ones, here is a very Good Word to work with. Say something like, "I love California, but wouldn't want to live there because of the temblors." Most of your friends will jump to correct you, "I think you mean 'tremblers', don't you?" But you will have a copy of today's Good Word in your pocket to prove that you are correct. Only your true friends will talk to you after this.

Word History: Today's Good Word is the Spanish word for a large earthquake. Like other Romance languages, Spanish inherited Medieval Latin tremulare "to shake, quiver" as something like tremblar but along the way lost the first R. The loss of Rs after a consonant doesn't occur often, but occur it does. English pang was prang in Old English and speech came from Old English spraek (compare German Sprache). Notice that when the U dropped out of Latin tremulare, the resulting ML combination also caused problems in Romance languages. French and Spanish inserted a B between them (French trembler, whence English tremble). Italian, on the other hand, just dropped the L: tremare. (Today we thank Chris Berry for shaking us up with this interesting borrowing from Spanish.)

Dr. Goodword,

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