MOCHA.

The English word mocha (a kind of coffee) is pronounced “moka” and derives from the port in Yemen (Arabic المخا [al-Mukhā]). Ever since I learned that one of Melville’s sources for Moby Dick was a historical whale named Mocha Dick, I had assumed it was the same word, presumably from the sense ‘a dark chocolate-brown color,’ and pronounced it accordingly, but Chris Patterson at Wordorigins directed me to the Wikipedia article for Mocha Island (in Spanish Isla Mocha) off the coast of Chile, which informs me that “The waters off the island are also noted as the home to a famous 19th century sperm whale, Mocha Dick, the inspiration for the fictional whale Moby Dick”; clearly the name was pronounced just the way it’s spelled, with /ch/ rather than /k/. A small thing, but important to us pedants.

Comments

  1. There is Russian word /mochA/ ‘urine’. It looks rather odd on a coffee mug.

  2. It would be more appropriate on a beer mug?

  3. Well, as long as we’re discussing urine: a Russian friend of mine once told me he had been walking with a woman he was hoping to score with and had said they should stop into a bar — “Nado pisat’” [Gotta pee]. I asked him why he hadn’t said “Nado ssat’” [Gotta piss]; he responded that he would have had to know the woman better to say that.

  4. If I may bring the discussion back to mocha for a bit.
    In Danish mocha is synonymous with very strong coffee (I think, traditionally made along the lines of the Turkish/Egyptian stuff, but without the sugar). Imagine my surprise when I ordered one during my first (and only) visit to the US. It served its purpose and woke me up but for entirely the wrong reasons.

  5. As the meaning of spanish mocho/mocha is not easily applied as a toponym to an island, I searched some documents fron the Universidad de Ciencias Sociales, Chile, and found that Isla Mocha was called Amocha. I have not found yet if Amocha is a spanish patronimic or is derived from a mapuche word.
    1. adj. Dicho especialmente de un animal cornudo, de un árbol o de una torre: Que carece de punta o de la debida terminación.
    2. adj. coloq. Pelado o con el pelo cortado.
    3. adj. Chile. Dicho de un religioso: lego. U. t. c. s.
    http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltObtenerHtml?TIPO_HTML=2&LEMA=mocho&SUPIND=0&CAREXT=10000&NEDIC=No#0_6
    Esta ysla se decia de Amocha [...]. Tenra una legua de ancho y dos y media en torno. Ay más de ochocientos yndios. [...] y luego vinieron los yndios, y nos mandaron sentar, y que no pasasemos adelante que nos matarian. Mandó el capitan diesemos en ellos, y mataronse hasta catorce yndios, y los demas huyeron, y perdieronse dos señores, los cuales metimos en la galera. Y con el servicio que llevauamos cargamos los navios de mayz y papas y frisoles, que avia gran cantidad. Y fue que en la sazon que llegamos estavan diferentes dos señores que ay en aquella ysla, y por esto no se nos defendio. Y como ellos en condicion general se huelgan del mal de unos y otros, no se confederaron, y ansy la tomamos seguramente. Aunque yo e andado e visto hartas provincias, no e visto yndios más proveydos de bastimento y de mejores casas que en esta ysla. Mas no es de maravillar, porque es muy fertil la tierra. Y hecho este salto y rrancheria, como aca dezimos, nos hezimos a la vela, y nos bolvimos a la ciudad . (Bibar 1979 [1558]).
    Los mapuches de Isla Mocha desde la óptica de los europeos: 1554-1687
    http://csociales.uchile.cl/rehuehome/facultad/publicaciones/Ethno-/mocha.htm

  6. By the way, spanish for mocha coffee is moca.

  7. So is Russian for mocha coffee : Кофе Мокко.
    Nothing to do with urine, unless you’ve ordered it in a railroad-station cafe.
    And, LH: aaaaiiiiwwweee!
    I was just seating down to a nice dinner!

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