Does chancles = slippers?

David Wright dcwright at
Fri Jan 17 14:34:57 UTC 2003


The usual form is "chanclas" or "chancletas". The 21st edition of the Real Academia's Diccionario de la Lengua Española derives the latter from the former, and the former from "chanca", which they say is onomatopoeic and has the same meaning. However Guido G'omez de Silva, in his Breve Diccionario Etimol'ogico de la Lengua Española, suspects that the L in "chancla" is due to influence from another Spanish word for sandal, "choclo", and that "chanca" derives from "zanca", meaning "long legs", among other things (by the way, mosquitoes in central Mexico are called "zancudos", "long-legged ones").

Sebasti'an de Covarrubias (sic) Orozco, in his 1611 Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana o Española, derives "chancletas" from "zanco": "y dij'eronse chancletas, quasi zancletas, de zanco, porque llevamos descubierto el tal'on, que se llama zanco" ("and they were called 'chancletas', almost 'zancletas', from 'zanco', because we have our heel, called 'zanco', uncovered.") (I've modernized Covarrubias' spelling.)

Covarrubias derives "zanco" from an Arab word for "foot" or "leg"; G'omez has it coming from Indo-European through Persia; the Real Academia says it's onomatopoeia, from "zanc", supposedly a stepping sound.

So it looks like you can chalk this one up to your Spanish linguistic heritage.



P.S. To be politically correct (which I'm often not, being an advocate for freedom of expression), "Spanish" should be called "Castilian", since there are four major Spanish languages: Basque, Castilian, Catalan and Galician; singling out one as *the* Spanish language is unfair to the other linguistic groups, reflecting centuries of internal colonialism and bringing up bad memories of the linguistically repressive policies of the Franco regime. When speaking Castilian I can get away with saying "castellano", but I've given up in English, because almost nobody understands me when I say "Castilian". I tried "Castilian Spanish" for a while, but that almost always produced questions like "What do you mean by *Castilian* Spanish?"
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