Episode 146: A Brand New World

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The voyage marked the beginning of the European discovery of the Americas. Columbus encountered natives in the Caribbean who spoke a Native American dialect called Arawakan. As the Europeans encountered the native culture of the region, several Arawakan words passed into Spanish and then into English. In this episode, we look at what happened when these separate ecosystems began to mix together in the late 1400s.


Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

13 thoughts on “Episode 146: A Brand New World

  1. This episode was great, I especially enjoyed the bit regarding coffee and cocoa, as a lover of coffee and chocolate myself, it was really cool to hear about their histories.

    • Thanks. I seriously debated whether or not to include that discussion at the end since the episode was so long, but I thought it was interesting and helped to drive home the important points of the episode. And I’m a coffee lover too. 😉

  2. This episode is also interesting about how well the plants thrived on other continents. Working in the plant industry, one must be careful about introducing new plants into unknown territory as they may become invasive. I am thrilled that these two species grew so well in totally different environments.

  3. Hi Kevin. Another fascinating episode. I too am a great coffee lover and hearing how it has affected our language was very interesting. I suppose a similar linguistic gain was made when the English went to India and China and brought back tea.
    An interesting sideline (well it is for me) is that I notice that you call the century (eg) “the fourteen hundreds” where I would call it “the fifteenth century”. Is this personal preference or is it yet another US vs UK anomaly?

    • Early on the podcast, I used the wording “____ century,” but I received feedback from some listeners who found that type of wording to be confusing. They had to do a mathematical equation in their head to determine exactly which century I was talking about. So based on that feedback, I generally shifted to the alternate phrasing “the 1300s,” “the 1400s,” etc.

  4. Great episode Kevin!

    A couple of points for extra discussion. Firstly just to round out your discussion of the Spanish sound shift that resulted in the beginning-of-word ‘f’ becoming an ‘h’. You mentioned that in Portuguese, the word is still furucão. That’s because this sound shift did not occur in Portuguese, so there are several examples of words like this, e.g. the word for beautiful is hermoso/a in Spanish and formoso/a in Portuguese (side note: this is where the former name for Taiwan, Formosa, comes from, as the Portuguese called it Ilha Formosa) and the word for child is hijo in Spanish but filho in Portuguese, etc.

    Secondly, there is a school of thought (conspiracy theory?!) that the Portuguese may have discovered Brazil several years before officially announcing and that is why they had the line of control shifted 270 leagues further west than the previous line when the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494. Then lo-and-behold, six years later they ‘discovered’ Brazil in 1500 and it just happened to be within their sphere of influence. Part of the reason for this theory is that there were no official voyages in the nine years between Dias’ return from rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and da Gama’s first voyage to India (starting 1497) and it is speculated that Brazil was secretly discovered during unannounced voyages at this time.

    Keep up the great work!

  5. Thanks for doing this podcast – as a second year English major it’s great to go over some of the same subject matter as in lectures – plus the intro music is just right, which is very important for a truly great podcast 😀

  6. I’ve loved your podcast, and have been listening for a never of years – recently, a few friends have taken up my suggestion to follow it, and have also loved it.

    I’ll take issue with one pronunciation – the country of Colombia. You mention Columbia correctly in context of the US, but you referred to the country also as Columbia. While many (most) English speakers pronounce it with a U, as in Columbia, it’s actually spelt and pronounced with an O, as in Colombia – having been named after the Spanish spelling of Cristobal Colón. Many Colombians get quite upset when it’s mispronounced. There’s even memes, Facebook groups and websites devoted to the the theme “It’s Colombia not Columbia”.


    Other than a minor nitpick, you’ve created a great podcast.

  7. What a great podcast!
    I will make this a required resource for my course on “Understanding the Americas”. Especially the Treaty of Tordesillas was surprising to me. Why had I never wondered why only Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese?

  8. It’s funny to learn that potato came to English from Spanish when the word for the same food in Spanish is now la papa. Not to be confused with EL Papa, which is the pope.

    • “Papa” is the Latin American word for it. In Spain Spanish a potato usually is “una patata”: the words “papa” (potato) and “batata” (sweet potato also known as camote/boniato/moniato in Sp. among other words) merged into “patata”.
      Very interesting page in Spanish about the word here.

  9. Just a comment on your pronunciation of Newfoundland. It’s not bad, but the ending isn’t a -lind sound, it’s land. If you haven’t heard much of our accent, I highly recommend doing some youtube videos on it. I’m hoping to do some of the sentences, but unfortunately, my own Newfoundland accent is a bit more muted. But here’s a quick link on how to pronounce our province: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31PhPvUPtEU.

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