4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

What poppycock and cockamamy have in common

Indo-European roots for excrement

Dear Sir. I always felt a sense of pride that, of all the words for excrement in all the world’s languages, it was the Spanish word caca that had come to transcend language barriers and be used universally to mean what it means. But recently I came across something that indicated that caca is not so much Spanish as Yiddish or Hebrew. Can you tell us what the origin of the word really is, languagewise? — Rick Munoz, San Diego

Answerwise, I can, Rick. The word itself is definitely Spanish. But following the caca trail back many thousands of years in linguistic time, we arrive at the Indo-European language that spawned everything from Norwegian to Hindi. Many languages in Europe, the Middle East, and the Near East include descendants of the Indo-European roots kakka- or kaka-, to defecate. Most English dictionaries that bother to list caca trace it to the Latin equivalent, cacare. The Dutch version, kacken, has given us the handy noun “poppycock,” meaning “nonsense.” The Yiddish kock produced “cockamamy” (ridiculous, absurd). Yiddish expert Leo Rosten calls this word “Yinglish,” a blend of Yiddish and English, since it was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan early in this century. My favorite loan of the word caca, though, comes directly from Spanish — cacafuego, literally, “shit fire,” a perfectly acceptable term in 16th-century England for a devilish or argumentative person or a bully, definitely a word to be proud of.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Beating back fear of Tijuana, why I keep thinking about Mexico, a cross-border kidnapping

The normalcy of smuggling across the line, party people re-take TJ, deported but not angry
Next Article

Cooler weather just an opening for Pelly's clam chowder

Northwest oysters, local fish, and a sourdough bread bowl in Carlsbad

Dear Sir. I always felt a sense of pride that, of all the words for excrement in all the world’s languages, it was the Spanish word caca that had come to transcend language barriers and be used universally to mean what it means. But recently I came across something that indicated that caca is not so much Spanish as Yiddish or Hebrew. Can you tell us what the origin of the word really is, languagewise? — Rick Munoz, San Diego

Answerwise, I can, Rick. The word itself is definitely Spanish. But following the caca trail back many thousands of years in linguistic time, we arrive at the Indo-European language that spawned everything from Norwegian to Hindi. Many languages in Europe, the Middle East, and the Near East include descendants of the Indo-European roots kakka- or kaka-, to defecate. Most English dictionaries that bother to list caca trace it to the Latin equivalent, cacare. The Dutch version, kacken, has given us the handy noun “poppycock,” meaning “nonsense.” The Yiddish kock produced “cockamamy” (ridiculous, absurd). Yiddish expert Leo Rosten calls this word “Yinglish,” a blend of Yiddish and English, since it was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan early in this century. My favorite loan of the word caca, though, comes directly from Spanish — cacafuego, literally, “shit fire,” a perfectly acceptable term in 16th-century England for a devilish or argumentative person or a bully, definitely a word to be proud of.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Toronto real estate giant is funder behind killing height limit

Brookfield Properties supplies $402,205 of $513,404 Yes on E money
Next Article

Sushi plus Mexican equals vegan at The Village

Order carefully to get the most out of this dual concept plant based eatery
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close