Chile on eggs?

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sat Jul 14 01:13:52 UTC 2001

In a message dated 07/12/2001 11:11:59 AM Eastern Daylight Time,

> in New Mexico, the question is "red or green?"
>  with your eggs, meaning red chile made from ground red chile pods, or green
>  made from chopped green chiles.

Afraid I was asleep on that one.  We now have "green chile" attested from New


In a message dated 07/12/2001 7:34:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
douglas at NB.NET writes:

> I guess Mexican "chile" [< Nahuatl] = South American "ají" [< Taino] =
>  Spanish Spanish "pimiento" or so ... in English "chili" (usually), also
>  "chile", "chilli".
>  The nation-name "Chile" is said to < Mapuche "chilli" = "land's end" or so.
>  (There are also other stories, I think.)

In a message dated 07/12/2001 9:36:44 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:

> AHD4 takes "chili" as basic and gives the etymology as "Spanish
>  chile, from Nahuatl chilli", while the OED takes both "chile" and
>  "chili" to be variants of "chilli", a spelling not as widely
>  encountered on this side of the pond (North or South America) these
>  days as far as I know, but evidently corresponding to the earliest
>  transliterations of the Nahuatl.

The spelling "chilli" is suspect.  In Castilian Spanish "ll" is pronounced
like the "lli" in English "million".  In parts of the New World "ll" is
pronounced like English "j" or soft "g".  In the rest of the New World "ll"
is pronounced as a consonantal "y".  "Caballo" ("horse") is "cabalyo" in
Spain, "cabajo" (English "j") in some places in the New World, and "cabayo"

How long has it been since double "l" stopped sounding like a single "l"
(which in Spanish is recognizable as similar to an English "l")?  I don't
know, but if it occurred substantially after the Spanish reached Chile
(mid-1500's) then we have "ll" converting three different ways in three
different areas, leaving no area in which it remained like "l".  Unlikely.
So it seems more likely that if the Mapuche or Nahuatl words were really
written by the Conquistadores as "chilli" then it was pronounced "cheeyee".

For "South American "aji"" read "Latin American "aji"".  Taino was spoken in
the Caribbean, and I learned the word "aji" from my first Spanish teacher,
who was Cuban.


In a message dated 07/12/2001 9:36:44 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:

> On the other hand, chile con queso I've only seen spelled that way,
>  never "chili", and it does have the pepper prominently featured.  And
>  as Steve Boatti was saying, chile rellenos never appear as "chili
>  rellenos" in any menu listing or recipe I've seen.   That's
>  consistent, of course, with "chile" being the Mexican Spanish
>  version, and "chili (con carne)" not being an authentic Mexican dish.

Are your statements based on observations made strictly in the USA?  Native
English speakers, as several members of this list (including myself) have
established, are unaware that "chile" and "chili" are separate Spanish words
with a distinct difference in pronunciation.  To a native English speaker,
they appear to be nothing more than variant spellings.

If, however, you observed "chile con queso" or "chile rellenos" in Mexico,
then you have observed an interesting phenomenon----native Spanish speakers
replacing a Spanish word with a differently-pronounced Spanish word.  (Folk
etymology, perhaps?)

             - Jim Landau

P.S. That 1894 citation I gave was actually for "chili saltpeter".  The
author (this was a chemistry text) THOUGHT he was saying "sodium nitrate."

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