Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Nazi" and "Nacho" are distant cognates

A few days ago Warren Tusk told me that the words "Nazi" and "Nacho" are very distant cognates. They come from German and Spanish contractions of the Latin name "Ignatius".

"Nazi" is primarily a contraction of Nationalsozialismus, or "National Socialism". Back in the 1920s it was also a derogatory nickname for peasants in Bavaria. "Ignatius" was a common name there, which was sometimes contracted to "Ignaz" and then to "Nazi". (This is similar to how "Paddy" has been a stereotypical nickname for Irishman and a contraction of "Patrick".) Since the Nazi party originally had its strongest base of support in Bavaria, its opponents liked the nickname as a way to tie the party to backwards Bavarian peasants.

Nachos were invented by Ignacio Anaya, a Piedras Negras restaurant maitre'd. He wanted to feed some wives of American military officers who were visiting Mexico during World War II, but the chef had left and he had to figure out how to make something they'd like. He threw together some canapes from tortilla chips, cheese, and jalapenos. Ignacio's nickname, "Nacho", soon was applied to his creation.