Spanish ex-, Spanish liberals?

Federico Escobar federicoescobarcordoba at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 5 23:00:14 UTC 2010

I read recently of two alleged examples of the influence of Spanish on
English, but I have found no real evidence to back up either claim.

The first was presented by the Colombian grammarian Fernando Avila, who said
that the widespread use of the prefix ex- in English, as in ex-president or
ex-wife, is due to the common use of that prefix in Spanish (in fact, "ex"
is now used as an adjective in that language: "ex presidente", for
instance). OED2 ("ex-" prefix1, 3) has political examples going back to 1398
and the broader use is attributed to the influence of French. Thus, this
does not seem to give credence to Avila's claim, but then again it is
difficult to ascertain the frequency of use from the OED. No other
dictionary I turned to gave any useful additional information.

The second comes from the British historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, in his
book *The Americas: A Hemispheric History*. On page 198, the author says
this: "The word *liberal* in its political sense is one of the terms English
owes to Spanish." Again, the OED does not present any direct link to
Spanish, and neither did any other dictionaries I checked.

Does anybody think these statements are plausible?


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